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

Partitioning of Carboxylase Activity in Nitrogen-Stressed Sugarcane and Its Relationship to Bundle Sheath Leakiness to CO2, Photosynthesis and Carbon Isotope Discrimination

SA Ranjith, FC Meinzer, MH Perry and M Thom

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 22(6) 903 - 911
Published: 1995


We studied the effects of external nitrogen (N) supply on ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) activity, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) activity, leaf gas exchange, carbon isotope discrimination (Δ), and bundle sheath leakiness to CO2 (Φ) in two cultivars of the C4 grass, sugarcane (Saccharum spp. hybrid). In addition to reducing overall levels of carboxylase activity and therefore photosynthetic rates, reduced N supply altered the partitioning of carboxylase activity. Under long-term N stress (4 months) Rubisco activity decreased more than PEPC activity causing significant reductions in the Rubisco/PEPC activity ratio, a measure of the ratio of C3 to C4 cycle activity. Concurrent determinations of Δ for leaf dry matter and the prevailing ratio of intercellular to ambient partial pressure of CO2 (pI/pa) during leaf gas exchange suggested that the decreased partitioning of N to Rubisco activity under long-term N stress led to increased Φ and reduced photosynthetic efficiency. The two cultivars studied maintained similar PEPC activities but differed genetically in regard to investment of N in Rubisco. Greater investment of N in Rubisco was associated with higher rates of photosynthesis and growth at similar or slightly lower leaf N content, indicating that greater relative investment of N in Rubisco activity also led to higher N-use efficiency. The results suggest that regulation of the ratio of C3 to C4 pathway activity and its consequences for Φ may play a key role in the photosynthetic performance and growth of C4 grasses under both favourable and stressful conditions.

© CSIRO 1995

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