- Proteaceae species in south-western Australia occur on severely phosphorus (P)-impoverished soils. They have very low leaf P concentrations, but relatively fast rates of photosynthesis, thus exhibiting extremely high photosynthetic phosphorus-use-efficiency (PPUE). Although the mechanisms underpinning their high PPUE remain unknown, one possibility is that these species may be able to replace phospholipids with nonphospholipids during leaf development, without compromising photosynthesis.
- For six Proteaceae species, we measured soil and leaf P concentrations and rates of photosynthesis of both young expanding and mature leaves. We also assessed the investment in galactolipids, sulfolipids and phospholipids in young and mature leaves, and compared these results with those on Arabidopsis thaliana, grown under both P-sufficient and P-deficient conditions.
- In all Proteaceae species, phospholipid levels strongly decreased during leaf development, whereas those of galactolipids and sulfolipids strongly increased. Photosynthetic rates increased from young to mature leaves. This shows that these species extensively replace phospholipids with nonphospholipids during leaf development, without compromising photosynthesis. A considerably less pronounced shift was observed in A. thaliana.
- Our results clearly show that a low investment in phospholipids, relative to nonphospholipids, offers a partial explanation for a high photosynthetic rate per unit leaf P in Proteaceae adapted to P-impoverished soils.