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Keywords:

  • C4 evolution;
  • CO2 gas exchange;
  • Kranz leaf anatomy;
  • mestome sheath;
  • photorespiration;
  • photosynthetic enzyme localization

ABSTRACT

Alloteropsis semialata (R. Br.) Hitchcock includes both C3 and C4 subspecies: the C3 subspecies eckloniana and the C4 subspecies semialata. We examined the leaf structural and photosynthetic characteristics of these plants. A. semialata ssp. semialata showed high activities of photosynthetic enzymes involved in phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase-type C4 photosynthesis and an anomalous Kranz anatomy. Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase; pyruvate, Pi dikinase and glycine decarboxylase (GDC) were compartmentalized between the mesophyll (M) and inner bundle sheath cells, whereas ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) occurred in both cells. A. semialata ssp. eckloniana also showed an anomalous non-Kranz anatomy, in which the mestome sheath cells included abundant chloroplasts and mitochondria. Rubisco and GDC accumulated densely in the M and mestome sheath cells, whereas the levels of C4 enzymes were low. The activity levels of photorespiratory enzymes in both subspecies were intermediate between those in typical C3 and C4 plants. The values of CO2 compensation points in A. semialata ssp. semialata were within the C4 range, whereas those in A. semialata ssp. eckloniana were somewhat lower than the C3 range. These data suggest that the plants are C3-like and C4-like but not typical C3 and C4, and when integrated with previous findings, point to important variability in the expression of C4 physiology in this species complex. A. semialata is therefore an intriguing grass species with which to study the evolutionary linkage between C3 and C4 plants.