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J Exp Bot. 2013 Dec;64(18):5485-96. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ert314. Epub 2013 Oct 14.

How succulent leaves of Aizoaceae avoid mesophyll conductance limitations of photosynthesis and survive drought.

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  • 1Department of Botany, Rhodes University, 6140 Grahamstown, South Africa.

Abstract

In several taxa, increasing leaf succulence has been associated with decreasing mesophyll conductance (g M) and an increasing dependence on Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). However, in succulent Aizoaceae, the photosynthetic tissues are adjacent to the leaf surfaces with an internal achlorophyllous hydrenchyma. It was hypothesized that this arrangement increases g M, obviating a strong dependence on CAM, while the hydrenchyma stores water and nutrients, both of which would only be sporadically available in highly episodic environments. These predictions were tested with species from the Aizoaceae with a 5-fold variation in leaf succulence. It was shown that g M values, derived from the response of photosynthesis to intercellular CO2 concentration (A:C i), were independent of succulence, and that foliar photosynthate δ(13)C values were typical of C3, but not CAM photosynthesis. Under water stress, the degree of leaf succulence was positively correlated with an increasing ability to buffer photosynthetic capacity over several hours and to maintain light reaction integrity over several days. This was associated with decreased rates of water loss, rather than tolerance of lower leaf water contents. Additionally, the hydrenchyma contained ~26% of the leaf nitrogen content, possibly providing a nutrient reservoir. Thus the intermittent use of C3 photosynthesis interspersed with periods of no positive carbon assimilation is an alternative strategy to CAM for succulent taxa (Crassulaceae and Aizoaceae) which occur sympatrically in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa.

KEYWORDS:

Aizoaceae; Crassulaceae; Crassulacean acid metabolism; drought avoidance; leaf succulence; mesophyll conductance

PMID:
24127513
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3871808
Free PMC Article
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