Photosynthesis in the intermediate light range is most efficient when the convexity of the photosynthetic light-response curve is high. Factors determining the convexity were examined for intact leaves using Salix sp. and for a plant cell culture using the green microalga Coccomyxa sp. It was found that the leaf had lower convexity than diluted plant cells because the light gradient through the leaf was not fully matched by a corresponding gradient in photosynthetic capacity. The degree to which the leaf gradients were matched was quantified by measuring photosynthesis at both leaf surfaces using modulated fluorescence. Two principal growth conditions were identified as those causing mismatch of leaf gradients and lowering of the convexity relative to cells. The first was growth under low light, where leaves did not develop any noteworthy gradient in photosynthetic capacity. This led to decreased convexity, particularly in old leaves with high chlorophyll content and, hence, steep light gradients. Second and less conspicuous was growth under high light conditions when light was given bilaterally rather than unilaterally, which yielded leaves of high photosynthetic capacity at both surfaces. Two situations were also identified that caused the convexity to decrease at the chloroplast level: (a) increased light during growth, for both leaves and cells, and (b) increased CO2 concentration during measurement of high-light-grown leaves. These changes of the intrinsic convexity were interpreted to indicate that the convexity declines with increased capacity of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase relative to the capacity of electron transport.
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