Improvements in carbon assimilation and water-use efficiency lead to increases in maximum leaf area index at elevated carbon dioxide concentration ([CO(2)]); however, the molecular drivers for this increase are unknown. We investigated the molecular basis for changes in leaf development at elevated [CO(2)] using soybeans (Glycine max) grown under fully open air conditions at the Soybean Free Air CO(2) Enrichment (SoyFACE) facility. The transcriptome responses of rapidly growing and fully expanded leaves to elevated [CO(2)] were investigated using cDNA microarrays. We identified 1,146 transcripts that showed a significant change in expression in growing versus fully expanded leaves. Transcripts for ribosomal proteins, cell cycle, and cell wall loosening, necessary for cytoplasmic growth and cell proliferation, were highly expressed in growing leaves. We further identified 139 transcripts with a significant [CO(2)] by development interaction. Clustering of these transcripts showed that transcripts involved in cell growth and cell proliferation were more highly expressed in growing leaves that developed at elevated [CO(2)] compared to growing leaves that developed at ambient [CO(2)]. The 327 [CO(2)]-responsive genes largely suggest that elevated [CO(2)] stimulates the respiratory breakdown of carbohydrates, which provides increased energy and biochemical precursors for leaf expansion and growth at elevated [CO(2)]. While increased photosynthesis and carbohydrate production at elevated [CO(2)] are well documented, this research demonstrates that at the transcript and metabolite level, respiratory breakdown of starch is also increased at elevated [CO(2)].
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