• Carotenoids;
  • chlorophylls;
  • low growth temperature;
  • maize;
  • pigments;
  • xanthophyll cycle;
  • Zea mays

The content and composition of pigments were examined in the third leaf of Zea mays L. plants grown under controlled environment at near-optimal temperature (24°C) or sub-optimal temperature (14°C) at a light intensity of either 200 or 600 μmol m−2 s−1. Compared to leaves grown at 24°C, leaves grown at 14°C showed a large reduction in the chlorophyll (Chl) content, a marked decrease in the Chl a/b ratio, and a large increase in the ratio of total carotenoids/Chl a+b. Leaves grown at 14°C showed a much lower content of β-carotene than leaves grown at 24°C, while the content of the carotenoids of the xanthophyll cycle (violaxanthin [V] + antheraxanthin [A] + zeaxanthin [Z]) was markedly higher in the former leaves as compared to the latter leaves; neoxanthin and lutein were affected by the growth temperature to a much lesser extent. The xanthophylls/β-carotene ratio was about three times higher in leaves grown at 14°C as compared to leaves grown at 24°C. On a chlorophyll basis, the two types of leaves hardly differed in their level of β-carotene, while the levels of the xanthophylls (including lutein and neoxanthin) were higher in 14°C-grown leaves as compared to 24°C-grown leaves. In leaves grown at 14°C, 40 and 56% of the V+A+Z pool was in the form of zeaxanthin at low light intensity and high light intensity, respectively. Only trace amounts of zeaxanthin, if any, were present in leaves grown at 24°C. The changes in the pigment composition induced by growth at sub-optimal temperature were more pronounced at a light intensity of 600 as compared to 200 μmol m−2 s−1. In the given range, the light intensity slightly affected the composition of pigments in leaves grown at 24°C. The physiological significance of the modifications to the pigment composition induced by growth at sub-optimal temperature is discussed.