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Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2003;54:329-55.

Photosynthesis of overwintering evergreen plants.

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1
Umeå Plant Science Center (UPSC), Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden. gunnar.oquist@plantphys.umu.se

Abstract

In this review we focus on photosynthetic behavior of overwintering evergreens with an emphasis on both the acclimative responses of photosynthesis to cold and the winter behavior of photosynthesis in conifers. Photosynthetic acclimation is discussed in terms of the requirement for a balance between the energy absorbed through largely temperature-insensitive photochemical processes and the energy used for temperature-sensitive biochemical processes and growth. Cold acclimation transforms the xanthophyll-mediated nonphotochemical antenna quenching of absorbed light from a short-term dynamic response to a long-term sustained quenching for the whole winter period. This acclimative response helps protect the evergreen foliage from photooxidative damage during the winter when photosynthesis is restricted or prevented by low temperatures. Although the molecular mechanisms behind the sustained winter excitation quenching are largely unknown, it does involve major alterations in the organization and composition of the photosystem II antenna. In addition, photosystem I may play an important role in overwintering evergreens not only by quenching absorbed light photochemically via its support of cyclic electron transport at low temperatures, but also by nonphotochemical quenching of absorbed light irrespective of temperature. The possible role of photosystem II reaction centers in nonphotochemical quenching of absorbed energy in overwintering evergreens is also discussed. Processes like chlororespiration and cyclic electron transport may also be important for maintaining the functional integrity of the photosynthetic apparatus of overwintering evergreens both during periods of thawing in winter and during recovery from winter stress in spring. We suggest that the photosynthetic acclimation responses of overwintering evergreens represent specific evolutionary adaptations for plant species that invest in the long-term maintenance of leaf structure in cold climatic zones as exemplified by the boreal forests of the Northern Hemisphere.

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