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Plant Physiol. 1989 Dec;91(4):1494-500.

Low and High Temperature Limits to PSII : A Survey Using trans-Parinaric Acid, Delayed Light Emission, and F(o) Chlorophyll Fluorescence.

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Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California 94305.


Many studies have shown that membrane lipids of chilling-sensitive plants begin lateral phase separation (i.e. a minor component begins freezing) at chilling temperatures and that chilling-sensitive plants are often of tropical origin. We tested the hypothesis that membranes of tropical plants begin lateral phase separation at chilling temperatures, and that plants lower the temperature of lateral phase separation as they invade cooler habitats. To do so we studied plant species in one family confined to the tropics (Piperaceae) and in three families with both tropical and temperate representatives (Fabaceae [Leguminosae], Malvaceae, and Solanaceae). We determined lateral phase separation temperatures by measuring the temperature dependence of fluorescence from trans-parinaric acid inserted into liposomes prepared from isolated membrane phospholipids. In all families we detected lateral phase separations at significantly higher temperatures, on average, in species of tropical origin. To test for associated physiological effects we measured the temperature dependence of delayed light emission (DLE) by discs cut from the same leaves used for lipid analysis. We found that the temperature of maximum DLE upon chilling was strongly correlated with lateral phase separation temperatures, but was on average approximately 4 degrees C lower. We also tested the hypothesis that photosystem II (PSII) (the most thermolabile component of photosynthesis) of tropical plants tolerates higher temperatures than PSII of temperate plants, using DLE and F(o) chlorophyll fluorescence upon heating to measure the temperature at which PSII thermally denatured. We found little difference between the two groups in PSII denaturation temperature. We also found that the temperature of maximum DLA upon heating was not significantly different from the critical temperature for F(o) fluorescence. Our results indicate that plants lowered their membrane freezing temperatures as they radiated from their tropical origins. One interpretation is that the tendency for membranes to begin freezing at chilling temperatures is the primitive condition, which plants corrected as they invaded colder habitats. An alternative is that membranes which freeze at temperatures only slightly lower than the minimum growth temperature confer an advantage.

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