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Plant respiration not just an evolutionary leftover, study shows

ttempts to minimize its activity in crop plants would be ill advised.

"Photorespiration is a mysterious process that under present condition dissipates about 25 percent of the energy that a plant captures during photosynthesis," said Arnold Bloom, a professor in UC Davis' vegetable crops department and lead researcher on the study. "But our research has shown that photorespiration enables the plant to take inorganic nitrogen in the form of nitrate and convert it into a form that is useful for plant growth."

The UC Davis team used two different methods to demonstrate in both wheat and Arabidopsis, a common research plant, that when plants are exposed to elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide or low levels of oxygen -- both conditions that inhibit photorespiration -- nitrate assimilation in the plant's shoot slows down. Eventually, a shortage of nitrogen will curtail the plant's growth.

"This explains why many plants are unable to sustain rapid growth when there is a significant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide," said Bloom. "And, as we anticipate a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide associated with global climate change by the end of this century, our results suggest that it would not be wise to decrease photorespiration in crop plants."

The UC Davis study was supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and an Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund fellowship.


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Contact: Andy Fell
ahfell@ucdavis.edu
530-752-4533
University of California - Davis
22-Jul-2004


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