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Rapid photosynthetic adaptation to heat stress triggered in potato leaves by moderately elevated temperatures



    Corresponding author
    1. Departement de Physiologie Vegetale et Ecosystemes, CEA-Sciences du Vivant, Centre d'Etudes de Cadarache, F-13108 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France
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Michel Havaux, Département de Physiologie Végétate et Ecosystèmes, CEA-Sciences du Vivant, Centre d'Etudes de Cadarache, F-13108 Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.


Photosystem II (PSII) is considered to be one of the most thermolabile aspects of photosynthesis. In vivo measurements of chlorophyll fluorescence and photosynthetic oxygen evolution in 25°C-grown potato leaves (cv. Haig) indicated that the threshold temperature Tc above which PSII denatures was indeed rather low–about 38°C–with temperatures higher than Tc causing a rapid and irreversible loss of PSII activity. The present study demonstrates the existence of adaptive processes which rapidly adjust the in vivo thermal stability of PSII in response to temperature increase. Transfer of potato leaves from 25°C to temperatures slightly lower than Tc (between 30 and 35°C) was observed to cause an upward shift of the Tc value without any appreciable loss of PSII activity. This increase in PSII thermotolerance was substantial (around +5°C in the Haig cultivar), rapid (with a half-time of ∼20 min) and slowly reversible at 25°C (>24h). As a consequence, high temperatures (e.g. 40°C) which caused a complete and irreversible inhibition of the PSII function had very little effect in 35°C-treated leaves, thus suggesting that the above-described PSII changes could be of prime importance for the plant's behaviour in the field. Accordingly, the rise in Tc at 35°C was much larger (+8°C) in Sahel, a stress-resistant potato variety, than in the heat-sensitive Haig cultivar.