• C4 photosynthesis;
  • canopy gas exchange;
  • cDNA microarrays;
  • CO2 enrichment;
  • leaf temperature;
  • stomata;
  • sunlit growth chambers;
  • transpiration;
  • Zea mays L.


The effects of CO2 enrichment on the growth and physiology of maize were investigated at the molecular, biochemical, leaf, and canopy levels. Maize plants were grown in sunlit soil–plant–atmosphere research (SPAR) chambers at ambient (370 μmol mol−1) or elevated (750 μmol mol−1) atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (Ca) under well-watered and fertilized conditions. Canopy gas exchange rates and leaf temperatures were monitored continuously during the growing season. CO2 enrichment did not enhance the growth or canopy photosynthesis of maize plants. However, canopy evapotranspiration rates decreased by 22% and daytime leaf temperatures were increased about 1°C in response to CO2 enrichment. Leaf carboxylation efficiency and leaf nitrogen concentration also decreased at elevated Ca. Transcription profiling using maize cDNA microarrays revealed that approximately 5% of tested genes responded to CO2 enrichment. Of the altered transcripts, several were known to encode proteins involved in stomatal development or photosynthesis. For the majority of the altered transcripts, however, it was difficult to link their functions with specific physiological factors partly because many of these genes encoded unknown proteins. We conclude that maize did not exhibit enhanced growth or photosynthesis in response to CO2 enrichment but a number of molecular and physiological processes including those involved in stomatal relations were affected by growth in elevated Ca.