Photosynthetic down-regulation and/or inhibition under water stress conditions are determinants for plant growth, survival and yield in drought-prone areas. Current knowledge about the sequence of metabolic events that leads to complete inhibition of photosynthesis under severe water stress is reviewed. An analysis of published data reveals that a key regulatory role for Rubisco in photosynthesis is improbable under water stress conditions. By contrast, the little data available for other Calvin cycle enzymes suggest the possibility of a key regulatory role for some enzymes involved in the regeneration of RuBP. There are insufficient data to determine the role of photophosphorylation.
Several important gaps in our knowledge of this field are highlighted. The most important is the remarkable scarcity of data about the regulation/inhibition of photosynthetic enzymes other than Rubisco under water stress. Consequently, new experiments are urgently needed to improve our current understanding of photosynthetic down-regulation under water stress. A second gap is the lack of knowledge of photosynthetic recovery after irrigation of plants which have been subjected to different stages of water stress. This knowledge is necessary in order to match physiological down-regulation by water stress with controlled irrigation programmes.