Journal Article

Protection of thylakoids against combined light and drought by a lumenal substance in the resurrection plant <i>Haberlea rhodopensis</i>

Katya Georgieva, Éva Sárvári and Áron Keresztes

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 105, issue 1, pages 117-126
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online November 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Protection of thylakoids against combined light and drought by a lumenal substance in the resurrection plant Haberlea rhodopensis

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Haberlea rhodopensis is a perennial, herbaceous, saxicolous, poikilohydric flowering plant that is able to survive desiccation to air-dried state under irradiance below 30 µmol m−2 s−1. However, desiccation at irradiance of 350 µmol m−2 s−1 induced irreversible changes in the photosynthetic apparatus, and mature leaves did not recover after rehydration. The aim here was to establish the causes and mechanisms of irreversible damage of the photosynthetic apparatus due to dehydration at high irradiance, and to elucidate the mechanisms determining recovery.


Changes in chloroplast structure, CO2 assimilation, chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, fluorescence imaging and the polypeptide patterns during desiccation of Haberlea under medium (100 µmol m−2 s−1; ML) irradiance were compared with those under low (30 µmol m−2 s−1; LL) irradiance.

Key Results

Well-watered plants (control) at 100 µmol m−2 s−1 were not damaged. Plants desiccated at LL or ML had similar rates of water loss. Dehydration at ML decreased the quantum efficiency of photosystem II photochemistry, and particularly the CO2 assimilation rate, more rapidly than at LL. Dehydration induced accumulation of stress proteins in leaves under both LL and ML. Photosynthetic activity and polypeptide composition were completely restored in LL plants after 1 week of rehydration, but changes persisted under ML conditions. Electron microscopy of structural changes in the chloroplast showed that the thylakoid lumen is filled with an electron-dense substance (dense luminal substance, DLS), while the thylakoid membranes are lightly stained. Upon dehydration and rehydration the DLS thinned and disappeared, the time course largely depending on the illumination: whereas DLS persisted during desiccation and started to disappear during late recovery under LL, it disappeared from the onset of dehydration and later was completely lost under ML.


Accumulation of DLS (possibly phenolics) in the thylakoid lumen is demonstrated and is proposed as a mechanism protecting the thylakoid membranes of H. rhodopensis during desiccation and recovery under LL. Disappearance of DLS during desiccation in ML could leave the thylakoid membranes without protection, allowing oxidative damage during dehydration and the initial rehydration, thus preventing recovery of photosynthesis.

Keywords: Haberlea rhodopensis; resurrection plant; electron microscopy; blue–green fluorescence; chlorophyll fluorescence

Journal Article.  5532 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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