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

Subdivision of C4-Pathway Species Based on Differing C4 Acid Decarboxylating Systems and Ultrastructural Features

MD Hatch, T Kagawa and S Craig

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 2(2) 111 - 128
Published: 1975


A selection of C4 species was surveyed to determine the relationship between their content of C4 acid decarboxylating enzymes, the activities of several other enzymes implicated in the C4 pathway, and their anatomical and ultrastructural features. The species examined clearly fell into three groups according to whether they contained high levels of either NADP malic enzyme (EC, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (EC or NAD malic enzyme (EC 1.1 .1.39). The occurrence of high NADP malic enzyme activity was always associated with higher NADP malate dehydrogenase activity, while those species distinguished by high activities of either of the other two decarboxylases invariably contained high aspartate aminotransferase and alanine amino- transferase activities. Each of these decarboxylating enzymes was located in bundle sheath cells. NAD malic enzyme, but not phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase, was associated with mitochondria.

Light and electron micrographs revealed differences between these groups with respect to the intracellular location of chloroplasts and mitochondria in bundle sheath cells, and the content and ultrastructure of mitochondria. The trend was for species with high NAD malic enzyme to contain the most mitochondria in the bundle sheath cells with apparently the most extensively developed cristae membrane systems. However, mitochondrial respiratory enzyme activities were similar for the three groups of species.

The basic similarities and differences between the three groups of C4 plants distinguished by their differing C4 acid decarboxylating systems are discussed, and schemes for the probable photosynthetic reactions in bundle sheath cells are presented. A nomenclature to distinguish between these groups is proposed.

© CSIRO 1975

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