DOI: 10.1111/nph.19171 ISSN: 0028-646X

Drought affects both photosystems in Arabidopsis thaliana

Chen Hu, Eduard Elias, Wojciech J. Nawrocki, Roberta Croce
  • Plant Science
  • Physiology


Drought is a major abiotic stress that impairs plant growth and development. Despite this, a comprehensive understanding of drought effects on the photosynthetic apparatus is lacking. In this work, we studied the consequences of 14‐d drought treatment on Arabidopsis thaliana.

We used biochemical and spectroscopic methods to examine photosynthetic membrane composition and functionality.

Drought led to the disassembly of PSII supercomplexes and the degradation of PSII core. The light‐harvesting complexes (LHCII) instead remain in the membrane but cannot act as an antenna for active PSII, thus representing a potential source of photodamage. This effect can also be observed during nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) induction when even short pulses of saturating light can lead to photoinhibition. At a later stage, under severe drought stress, the PSI antenna size is also reduced and the PSI‐LHCI supercomplexes disassemble. Surprisingly, although we did not observe changes in the PSI core protein content, the functionality of PSI is severely affected, suggesting the accumulation of nonfunctional PSI complexes.

We conclude that drought affects both photosystems, although at a different stage, and that the operative quantum efficiency of PSII (ΦPSII) is very sensitive to drought and can thus be used as a parameter for early detection of drought stress.

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