Desiccation of the leaf mesophyll and its implications for CO2 diffusion and light processing

Craig Brodersen and 6 other contributors

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    Leaves balance CO2 and radiative absorption while maintaining water transport to maximise photosynthesis. Related species with contrasting leaf anatomy can provide insights into inherent and stress-induced links between structure and function for commonly measured leaf traits for important crops. We used two walnut species with contrasting mesophyll anatomy to evaluate these integrated exchange processes under non-stressed and drought conditions using a combination of light microscopy, X-ray microCT, gas exchange, hydraulic conductance, and chlorophyll distribution profiles through leaves. Juglans regia had thicker palisade mesophyll, higher fluorescence in the palisade, and greater low-mesophyll porosity that were associated with greater gas-phase diffusion (g(IAS)), stomatal and mesophyll (g(m)) conductances and carboxylation capacity. More and highly-packed mesophyll cells and bundle sheath extensions (BSEs) in Juglans microcarpa led to higher fluorescence in the spongy and in proximity to the BSEs. Both species exhibited drought-induced reductions in mesophyll cell volume, yet the associated increases in porosity and g(IAS) were obscured by declines in biochemical activity that decreased g(m). Inherent differences in leaf anatomy between the species were linked to differences in gas exchange, light absorption and photosynthetic capacity, and drought-induced changes in leaf structure impacted performance via imposing species-specific limitations to light absorption, gas exchange and hydraulics.