Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Distinctive diel growth cycles in leaves and cladodes of CAM plants: differences from C3 plants and putative interactions with substrate availability, turgor and cytoplasmic pH

Liezel M. Gouws A B C , C. Barry Osmond A D , Ulrich Schurr B and Achim Walter A B E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Biosphere 2 Laboratory, Columbia University, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA.

B Institute for Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere: Phytosphere (ICG-III), Research Centre Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany.

C Institute of Plant Biotechnology, Stellenbosch University, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

D School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

F This paper originates from a presentation at the IVth International Congress on Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, Tahoe City, California, USA, July–August 2004

Functional Plant Biology 32(5) 421-428
Submitted: 1 April 2005  Accepted: 5 May 2005   Published: 27 May 2005


Distinct diel rhythms of leaf and cladode expansion growth were obtained in crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) plants under water-limited conditions, with maxima at mid-day during phase III of CO2 assimilation. This pattern coincided with the availability of CO2 for photosynthesis and growth during the decarboxylation of malic acid, with maximum cell turgor due to the nocturnally accumulated malic acid, and with the period of low cytoplasmic pH associated with malic acid movement from vacuole to cytosol. Maximum growth rates were generally only 20% of those in C3 plants and were reached at a different time of the day compared with C3 plants. The results suggest that malic acid, as a source of carbohydrates, and a determinant of turgor and cytoplasmic pH, plays a major role in the control of diel growth dynamics in CAM plants under desert conditions. The observed plasticity in phasing of growth rhythms under situations of differing water availability suggests that a complex network of factors controls the diel growth patterns in CAM plants and needs to be investigated further.

Keywords: image processing, Opuntia, spatio-temporal dynamics.


We thank Dr Ed Bobich for help with the experiments and for fruitful discussions, and Ralf Küsters for assistance with growth calibration measurements. The δ13C values were provided by Thanh Tran and Dr Karl Bil’. Financial support was provided by a Feodor Lynen Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, and by program enhancement grants made available by Dr Michael Crow, Executive Vice-Provost, Columbia University, for use in the Biosphere 2 Laboratory sustained by the generosity of Mr Edward P Bass.


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