Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2010, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (8): 989-999.DOI: 10.3773/j.issn.1005-264x.2010.08.012

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A review of acclimation of photosynthetic pigment composition in plant leaves to shade environment

SUN Xiao-Ling1; XU Yue-Fei1; MA Lu-Yi2; and ZHOU He1*   

  1. 1Department of Grassland Science, College of Animal Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China;

    2Landscape Planning and Designing Institute, Forestry Department of Sichuan Province, Chengdu 610000, China
  • Received:2009-12-01 Online:2010-08-01 Published:2010-09-28
  • Contact: ZHOU He

Abstract: Chlorophylls function in harvesting light energy, funneling the excitation to reaction center and converting sunlight into chemical energy, and carotenoids are responsible for light harvesting and photoprotection. Both are vital for photosynthesis. We summarized the distribution and function of the main photosynthetic pigments and variation of pigment composition and content in sun and shade plants. Sun plants possess larger xanthophyll cycle pool size (violaxanthin + antheraxanthin + zeaxanthin), but de-epoxidation level is lower than that of shade plants. The ratio of lutein to xanthophyll cycle pool size is positively correlated to plant shade tolerance. Light intensity and spectral quality vary between different shade sources. Generally for plant growth, building shade is better than vegetation shade, and deciduous shade exceeds coniferous shade. Variation in light intensity may activate two cycles in plants, xanthophyll cycle and lutein epoxide cycle, for light harvesting or energy dissipation. Some species may alter chlorophyll content and Chl a/b ratio to acclimate to different light intensity, but this character is not related to their shade tolerance. Temporary shade is not necessarily detrimental. Xanthophyll cycle pool size is not only determined by daily photon receipt, but also by the way photon flux is distributed over the daylight hours, because light and temperature are both essential for optimal photosynthetic metabolism. The best photosynthetic performances of plants were obtained with the reinforcement of blue, red and far red wavelengths and with a red: far red ratio closer to that observed in nature. We reviewed internal and external factors affecting photosynthetic pigment content and composition, and determined that during the acclimation to different light environments, plants altered pigment composition and content mainly through adjusting the ratio of reaction center to light harvesting complex and PSI/PSII. We also discussed current research problems and provided insight into future relevant research.