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The Optical Properties of Leaf Structural Elements and Their Contribution to Photosynthetic Performance and Photoprotection.

Authors
  • Karabourniotis, George1
  • Liakopoulos, Georgios1
  • Bresta, Panagiota2
  • Nikolopoulos, Dimosthenis1
  • 1 Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Morphology, Faculty of Crop Science, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, 118 55 Athens, Greece. , (Greece)
  • 2 Laboratory of Electron Microscopy, Faculty of Crop Science, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, 118 55 Athens, Greece. , (Greece)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Plants
Publisher
MDPI AG
Publication Date
Jul 15, 2021
Volume
10
Issue
7
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3390/plants10071455
PMID: 34371656
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Leaves have evolved to effectively harvest light, and, in parallel, to balance photosynthetic CO2 assimilation with water losses. At times, leaves must operate under light limiting conditions while at other instances (temporally distant or even within seconds), the same leaves must modulate light capture to avoid photoinhibition and achieve a uniform internal light gradient. The light-harvesting capacity and the photosynthetic performance of a given leaf are both determined by the organization and the properties of its structural elements, with some of these having evolved as adaptations to stressful environments. In this respect, the present review focuses on the optical roles of particular leaf structural elements (the light capture module) while integrating their involvement in other important functional modules. Superficial leaf tissues (epidermis including cuticle) and structures (epidermal appendages such as trichomes) play a crucial role against light interception. The epidermis, together with the cuticle, behaves as a reflector, as a selective UV filter and, in some cases, each epidermal cell acts as a lens focusing light to the interior. Non glandular trichomes reflect a considerable part of the solar radiation and absorb mainly in the UV spectral band. Mesophyll photosynthetic tissues and biominerals are involved in the efficient propagation of light within the mesophyll. Bundle sheath extensions and sclereids transfer light to internal layers of the mesophyll, particularly important in thick and compact leaves or in leaves with a flutter habit. All of the aforementioned structural elements have been typically optimized during evolution for multiple functions, thus offering adaptive advantages in challenging environments. Hence, each particular leaf design incorporates suitable optical traits advantageously and cost-effectively with the other fundamental functions of the leaf.

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