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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(7):1581-95. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern053. Epub 2008 Apr 23.

Rubisco, Rubisco activase, and global climate change.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3B2.


Global warming and the rise in atmospheric CO(2) will increase the operating temperature of leaves in coming decades, often well above the thermal optimum for photosynthesis. Presently, there is controversy over the limiting processes controlling photosynthesis at elevated temperature. Leading models propose that the reduction in photosynthesis at elevated temperature is a function of either declining capacity of electron transport to regenerate RuBP, or reductions in the capacity of Rubisco activase to maintain Rubisco in an active configuration. Identifying which of these processes is the principal limitation at elevated temperature is complicated because each may be regulated in response to a limitation in the other. Biochemical and gas exchange assessments can disentangle these photosynthetic limitations; however, comprehensive assessments are often difficult and, for many species, virtually impossible. It is proposed that measurement of the initial slope of the CO(2) response of photosynthesis (the A/C(i) response) can be a useful means to screen for Rubisco activase limitations. This is because a reduction in the Rubisco activation state should be most apparent at low CO(2) when Rubisco capacity is generally limiting. In sweet potato, spinach, and tobacco, the initial slope of the A/C(i) response shows no evidence of activase limitations at high temperature, as the slope can be accurately modelled using the kinetic parameters of fully activated Rubisco. In black spruce (Picea mariana), a reduction in the initial slope above 30 degrees C cannot be explained by the known kinetics of fully activated Rubisco, indicating that activase may be limiting at high temperatures. Because black spruce is the dominant species in the boreal forest of North America, Rubisco activase may be an unusually important factor determining the response of the boreal biome to climate change.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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