Chlorophyll and light gradients in sun and shade leaves of Spinacia oleracea


Thomas C. Vogelmann, P.O. Box 3165 University Station, Botany Department, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, U.S.A.


Abstract. Light gradients were measured and correlated with chlorophyll concentration and anatomy of leaves in spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). Light gradients were measured at 450, 550 and 680 nm within thin (455 μm) and thick (630 μm) leaves of spinach grown under sun and shade conditions. The light gradients were relatively steep in both types of leaves and 90% of the light at 450 and 680 nm was absorbed by the initial 140 μm of the palisade. In general, blue light was depleted faster than red light which, in turn was depleted faster than green light. Light penetrated further into the thicker palisade of sun leaves in comparison to the shade leaves. The distance that blue light at 450 nm travelled before it became 90% depleted was 120 μm in sun leaves versus 76 μm in shade leaves. Red light at 680 nm and green light at 550 nm travelled further but the trends were similar to that measured at 450nm. The steeper light gradients within the palisade-of shade leaves were caused by increased scattering of light within the intercellular air spaces and/or cells which were less compact than those in sun leaves. The decline in the amount of light within the leaf appeared to be balanced by a gradient in chlorophyll concentration measured in paradermal sections. Progressing from the adaxial epidermis, chlorophyll content increased through the palisade and then declined through the spongy mesophyll. Chlorophyll content was similar in the palisade of both sun and shade leaves. Chloroplast distribution within both sun and shade leaves was relatively uniform so that the chlorophyll gradient appeared to be caused by greater amounts of chlorophyll within chloroplasts located deeper within the leaf. These results indicate that the anatomy of the palisade may be of special importance for controlling the penetration of photo-synthetically active radiation into the leaf. Changing the structural characteristics of individual palisade cells or their arrangement may be an adaptation that maximizes the absorption of light in leaves with varying mesophyll thickness due to different ambient light regimes.