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J Exp Bot. 2014 Jul;65(13):3637-47. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru106. Epub 2014 Mar 27.

Comparative studies of C3 and C4 Atriplex hybrids in the genomics era: physiological assessments.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, ON M5S3B2 Canada.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks Street, Toronto, ON M5S3B2 Canada


We crossed the C3 species Atriplex prostrata with the C4 species Atriplex rosea to produce F1 and F2 hybrids. All hybrids exhibited C3-like δ(13)C values, and had reduced rates of net CO2 assimilation compared with A. prostrata. The activities of the major C4 cycle enzymes PEP carboxylase, NAD-malic enzyme, and pyruvate-Pi dikinase in the hybrids were at most 36% of the C4 values. These results demonstrate the C4 metabolic cycle was disrupted in the hybrids. Photosynthetic CO2 compensation points (Г) of the hybrids were generally midway between the C3 and C4 values, and in most hybrids were accompanied by low, C3-like activities in one or more of the major C4 cycle enzymes. This supports the possibility that most hybrids use a photorespiratory glycine shuttle to concentrate CO2 into the bundle sheath cells. One hybrid exhibited a C4-like Г of 4 µmol mol(-1), indicating engagement of a C4 metabolic cycle. Consistently, this hybrid had elevated activities of all measured C4 cycle enzymes relative to the C3 parent; however, C3-like carbon isotope ratios indicate the low Г is mainly due to a photorespiratory glycine shuttle. The anatomy of the hybrids resembled that of C3-C4 intermediate species using a glycine shuttle to concentrate CO2 in the bundle sheath, and is further evidence that this physiology is the predominant, default condition of the F2 hybrids. Progeny of these hybrids should further segregate C3 and C4 traits and in doing so assist in the discovery of C4 genes using high-throughput methods of the genomics era.


C4 engineering; C4 photosynthesis; CO2 concentrating mechanism; Rubisco.; photosynthetic hybrids

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