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Plant Physiol. 1993 Dec;103(4):1075-1088.

Effects of Ambient CO2 Concentration on Growth and Nitrogen Use in Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) Plants Transformed with an Antisense Gene to the Small Subunit of Ribulose-1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase.

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  • 1Plant Environmental Biology Group and Cooperative Research Centre for Plant Science, Research School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, GPO Box 475, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.


Growth of the R1 progeny of a tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum) transformed with an antisense gene to the small subunit of ribulose-1,5-carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) was analyzed under 330 and 930 [mu]bar of CO2, at an irradiance of 1000 [mu]mol quanta m-2 s-1. Rubisco activity was reduced to 30 to 50% and 13 to 18% of that in the wild type when one and two copies of the antisense gene, respectively, were present in the genome, whereas null plants and wild-type plants had similar phenotypes. At 330 [mu]bar of CO2 all antisense plants were smaller than the wild type. There was no indication that Rubisco is present in excess in the wild type with respect to growth under high light. Raising ambient CO2 pressure to 930 [mu]bar caused plants with one copy of the DNA transferred from plasmid to plant genome to achieve the same size as the wild type at 330 [mu]bar, but plants with two copies remained smaller. Differences in final size were due mostly to early differences in relative rate of leaf area expansion (m2 m-2 d-1) or of biomass accumulation (g g-1 d-1): within less than 2 weeks after germination relative growth rates reached a steady-state value similar for all plants. Plants with greater carboxylation rates were characterized by a higher ratio of leaf carbon to leaf area, and at later stages, they were characterized also by a relatively greater allocation of structural and nonstructural carbon to roots versus leaves. However, these changes per se did not appear to be causing the long-term insensitivity of relative growth rates to variations in carboxylation rate. Nor was this insensitivity due to feedback inhibition of photosynthesis in leaves grown at high partial pressure of CO2 in the air (pa) or with high Rubisco activity, even when the amount of starch approached 40% of leaf dry weight. We propose that other intrinsic rate-limiting processes that are independent of carbohydrate supply were involved. Under plentiful nitrogen supply, reduction in the amount of nitrogen invested in Rubisco was more than compensated for by an increase in leaf nitrate. Nitrogen content of organic matter, excluding Rubisco, was unaffected by the antisense gene. In contrast, it was systematically lower at elevated pa than at normal pa. Combined with the positive effects of pa on growth, this resulted in the single-dose antisense plants growing as fast at 930 [mu]bar of CO2 as the wild-type plants at 330 [mu]bar of CO2 but at a lower organic nitrogen cost.

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