The leaf anatomy of a broad-leaved evergreen allows an increase in leaf nitrogen content in winter

Onno Muller, Riichi Oguchi, Tadaki Hirose, Marinus J.A. Werger, Kouki Hikosaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


In temperate regions, evergreen species are exposed to large seasonal changes in air temperature and irradiance. They change photosynthetic characteristics of leaves responding to such environmental changes. Recent studies have suggested that photosynthetic acclimation is strongly constrained by leaf anatomy such as leaf thickness, mesophyll and chloroplast surface facing the intercellular space, and the chloroplast volume. We studied how these parameters of leaf anatomy are related with photosynthetic seasonal acclimation. We evaluated differential effects of winter and summer irradiance on leaf anatomy and photosynthesis. Using a broad-leaved evergreen Aucuba japonica, we performed a transfer experiment in which irradiance regimes were changed at the beginning of autumn and of spring. We found that a vacant space on mesophyll surface in summer enabled chloroplast volume to increase in winter. The leaf nitrogen and Rubisco content were higher in winter than in summer. They were correlated significantly with chloroplast volume and with chloroplast surface area facing the intercellular space. Thus, summer leaves were thicker than needed to accommodate mesophyll surface chloroplasts at this time of year but this allowed for increases in mesophyll surface chloroplasts in the winter. It appears that summer leaf anatomical characteristics help facilitate photosynthetic acclimation to winter conditions. Photosynthetic capacity and photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency were lower in winter than in summer but it appears that these reductions were partially compensated by higher Rubisco contents and mesophyll surface chloroplast area in winter foliage. ©

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-309
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jul


Dive into the research topics of 'The leaf anatomy of a broad-leaved evergreen allows an increase in leaf nitrogen content in winter'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this