Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (8): 914-924.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0337

• Reviews • Previous Articles    

Mesophyll conductance and its limiting factors in plant leaves

Ji-Mei HAN1, Wang-Feng ZHANG1, Dong-Liang XIONG2, Jaume FLEXAS2, Ya-Li ZHANG1,*()   

  1. 1Shihezi University, Agricultural College, The Key Laboratory of Oasis Eco-agriculture, Xinjiang Production and Construction Group, Shihezi, Xinjiang 832003, China

    2Universitat de les Illes Balears, Research Group in Plant Biology Under Mediterranean Conditions, Palma de Mallorca 07122, Illes Balears, Spain
  • Online:2017-09-29 Published:2017-08-10
  • Contact: Ya-Li ZHANG
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


Mesophyll conductance (gm) represents the CO2 diffusion facility from sub-stomatal internal cavities to carboxylation sites in chloroplasts, and the variation of gm across genotypes as well as environmental conditions is expected to be related to the anatomical structures and biochemical properties of leaves. In recent years, the variation of gm has attracted wide attention. The limiting factors in photosynthetic rate are no longer divided simply into stomatal limitation and non-stomatal limitation, but splitted in stomatal limitation, mesophyll limitation and carboxylation limitation. In this review, we summarize the potential influences of cell wall, cell membrane, cytoplasm, chloroplast envelope and stroma on gm, and indicate that cell wall thickness and the surface area of chloroplast exposed to intercellular air space (Sc) are the most important factors influencing the gm. We also analyze the probable effects of biochemical process related with aquaporins and carbonic anhydrase on gm. Meanwhile, the regulation mechanisms of long- and short-term environment changes (including temperature, light intensity, drought, and nutrients) on gm are also summarized. The relationship between gm and hydraulic conductance (Kleaf) is debated. Finally, we discuss the scientific problems related with gm.

Key words: photosynthesis, CO2 diffusion, mesophyll conductance, anatomical structure, biochemical factor, environmental change, hydraulic conductance

Fig. 1

CO2 transport model. AQPs, aquaporins; Ca, the atmospheric CO2 concentration; Ci, intercellular CO2 concentration; CA, carbonic anhydrase; gias, the gas phase conductance; glip, the liquid phase conductance."

Fig. 2

The diffusion path of CO2 reflected by gm. A, The leaf anatomical structure in cotton by optical microscope, which represents the CO2 gas phase diffusion from the atmosphere into the leaf intercellular air layer; B, The leaf ultra-micro structure in cotton by electron microscope, which represents the CO2 liquid phase diffusion from intercellular into the chloroplast carboxylation site. AQPs, aquaporins; Ci, intercellular CO2 concentration; Cc, CO2 concentration at chloroplast carboxylation site; CA, carbonic anhydrase; gias, the gas phase conductance."

Table 1

Diffusion way, transportation form, resistance source, power source when CO2 passes through the ultrastructure components of mesophyll cells and the different response time to the external environment"

CO2 diffusion way
CO2 transportation form
Resistance source
Power source
Response time to the external environment
Cell wall
Physics and
biochemical mode
CO2 厚度、孔隙度、果胶等组分
Thickness, porosity, pectin etc.
Difference of CO2 concentration
Physics and
biochemical mode
CO2 水孔蛋白、膜两侧pH差值
AQPs, the difference of pH on both sides of the membrane
CO2浓度差、跨膜蛋白主动运输 Difference of CO2 concentration, active transport of transmembrane protein 较短
and physical mode
CO2, HCO3- CA、pH、细胞液组分
CA, pH, cytosol component
pH, catalysis of CA
Chloroplast membranes
and physical mode
CO2 水孔蛋白、膜两侧CO2浓度差
AQPs, the difference of CO2 concentration on both sides of the membrane
Active transport of
transmembrane protein
and physical mode)
CO2, HCO3- CA, pH pH、CA的催化
pH, catalysis of CA
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