Does a low nitrogen supply necessarily lead to acclimation of photosynthesis to elevated CO2?

Peter K. Farage, Ian F. McKee, Steve P. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term exposure of plants to elevated partial pressures of CO2 (pCO2) often depresses photosynthetic capacity. The mechanistic basis for this photosynthetic acclimation may involve accumulation of carbohydrate and may be promoted by nutrient limitation. However, our current knowledge is inadequate for making reliable predictions concerning the onset and extent of acclimation. Many studies have sought to investigate the effects of N supply but the methodologies used generally do not allow separation of the direct effects of limited N availability from those caused by a N dilution effect due to accelerated growth at elevated pCO2. To dissociate these interactions, wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) was grown hydroponically and N was added in direct proportion to plant growth. Photosynthesis did not acclimate to elevated pCO2 even when growth was restricted by a low-N relative addition rate. Ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphatc carboxylase/oxygenase activity and quantity were maintained, there was no evidence for triose phosphate limitation of photosynthesis, and tissue N content remained within the range recorded for healthy wheat plants. In contrast, wheat grown in sand culture with N supplied at a fixed concentration suffered photosynthetic acclimation at elevated pCO2 in a low-N treatment. This was accompanied by a significant reduction in the quantity of active ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase and leaf N content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-580
Number of pages8
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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