Key words Opuntia macrorhiza
Crassulacean acid metabolism
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Diurnal changes in titratable acidity, photosynthesis, energy dissipation activity, and the carotenoid composition of differently oriented cladodes of the cactus Opuntia macrorhiza were characterized during exposure to full sunlight in the field. Four cladode faces were chosen such that each was exposed to maximum photon flux densities (PFD) at different times of the day in addition to receiving different daily integrated PFDs. The sum of all carotenoids per chlorophyll was found to increase with increasing exposure to PFD, with the carotenoids of the xanthophyll cycle present in the most exposed face at more than twice the concentration found in the least exposed face. All faces exhibited large increases in xanthophyll cycle-dependent energy dissipation as the sun rose in the morning, even those receiving only minimal levels of diffuse radiation. The transient high levels of energy dissipation in those faces that did not receive direct sunlight in the morning may have been due to low temperature inhibition of photosynthesis (predawn low of 2°C). For the two faces receiving peak PFDs in the morning hours (north and east faces), the level of energy dissipation activity increased rapidly during exposure to direct sunlight in the early morning, gradually declining in the late morning under warm temperatures, and was negligible during the afternoon low light conditions. Changes in the xanthophyll cycle paralleled the changes in energy dissipation with the majority of the cycle present as violaxanthin (V) prior to sunrise, largely de-epoxidized to zeaxanthin (Z) and antheraxanthin (A) during exposure to direct sunlight, and reconverted to V during the afternoon. For the two faces receiving peak PFDs in the afternoon (south and west faces), energy dissipation activity increased dramatically during the early morning low light period, subsequently decreasing during midday as decarboxylation of malic acid proceeded maximally (providing a high concentration of CO2 for photosynthesis), and then increased to the highest level in the late afternoon as the supply of malic acid was depleted and rates of photosynthetic electron transport declined. The xanthophyll cycle, largely present as Z and A prior to sunrise in the south and west faces, was de-epoxidized to the greatest extent in the late afternoon, followed by epoxidation back to the predawn level by sunset. In all cladode faces high levels of energy dissipation activity were accompanied by decreases in the intrinsic efficiency of photosystem II (PSII), indicative of a regulatory process that diverted the excess energy away from the reaction centers during periods of excess light. Furthermore, the overnight retention of Z and A by the south and west faces was accompanied by a sustained reduction in PSII efficiency (i.e., “photoinhibition”). We suggest that this “photoinhibition” represents the sustained engagement of nocturnally retained Z and A in the photoprotective down-regulation of PSII.
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