A model of the acclimation of photosynthesis in the leaves of C3 plants to sun and shade with respect to nitrogen use


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A model of leaf photosynthesis of C3, plants has been developed to describe their nitrogen economy. In this model, photosynthetic proteins are categorized into five groups depending on their functions. The effects of investment of nitrogen in each of these groups on the maximal rate of photosynthesis and/or the initial slope of the light‐response curve are described as simple equations. Using this model, the optimal pattern of nitrogen partitioning which maximizes the daily rate of CO2 exchange is estimated for various light environments and leaf nitrogen contents. When the leaf nitrogen content is fixed, the amount of nitrogen allocated to Calvin cycle enzymes and electron carriers increases with increasing irradiance, while that allocated to chlorophyll‐protein complexes increases with decreasing irradiance. For chlorophyll‐proteins of photosystem II, the amount of light‐harvesting complex II relative to that of the core complex increases with decreasing irradiance. At any irradiance, partitioning into ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase increases with increasing leaf nitrogen content Taking the total leaf nitrogen content and the daily CO2 exchange rate as ‘cost’ and ‘benefit’, respectively, the optimal amount and partitioning of nitrogen are examined for various conditions of light environment and nitrogen availability. The leaf nitrogen content that maximizes the rate of daily carbon fixation increases with increasing growth irradiance. It is also predicted that, at low nitrogen availabilities, low leaf nitrogen contents are advantageous in terms, of nitrogen use efficiency. These trends predicted by the present model are largely consistent with those reported for actual plants. The differences in the total amount of leaf nitrogen and in the organization of photosynthetic components that have been reported for plants from different environments would therefore be of adaptive significance, because such differences can contribute to realization of efficient photosynthesis. These results are fürther discussed in an ecological context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-618
Number of pages14
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1995 Jun


  • initial slope of light‐response curve of photosynthesis
  • leaf nitrogen
  • model
  • nitrogen partitioning
  • nitrogen use efficiency
  • photosynthetic components
  • sun‐shade acclimation


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