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Chapter 10 C4 Photosynthesis And Temperature

R. Sage, F. Kocacinar, D. S. Kubien
Published 2010 · Biology

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C4 plants perform poorly at low temperature, in contrast to C3 vegetation. As a consequence, low ­numbers of C4 species occur at high latitude, high elevation, and during cooler growing seasons. The mechanisms explaining the poor performance of C4 species in colder climates have not been clearly identified. Early physiological perspectives indicate that C4 species fail at low temperature due to either low quantum yield of the C4 relative to the C3 pathway, or enzyme lability in the C4 cycle, most notably at PEP regeneration by pyruvate-Pi dikinase (PPDK). Alternatively, recent phylogenetic surveys show that all C4 lineages originated from C3 ancestors adapted to warm climates, indicating the failure of most C4 species in colder environments could reflect prior heat adaptation within their respective evolutionary lineages. Numerous C4 species have independently evolved cold tolerance; these plants allow for examination of C4 photosynthesis at low temperature without complications from chilling injury. Relative to ecologically-similar C3 species, chilling-adapted C4 species have similar or slightly reduced photosynthetic capacities below 10°C and, after cold acclimation, show no chilling lability of PPDK, PEP carboxylase or other enzymes of the C4 cycle. Cold-adapted C4 species have enhanced photoprotective capacity at low ­temperature as indicated by greater levels of antioxidants and carotenoid pigments. Rubisco capacity is similar to gross CO2 assimilation rate below 20°C in cold-adapted C4 species, indicating it is an important limitation on C4 photosynthesis at cool temperature. Acclimation and adaptation of C4 species to the cold does not overcome the apparent Rubisco limitation. It is likely that a ceiling on carbon gain by insufficient Rubisco capacity at low temperature may be a leading trait that maladapts the C4 pathway to cold regions of the earth.
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