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Background and Aims Leaf veins are usually encircled by specialized bundle sheath cells. In C4 plants, they play an important role in CO2 assimilation, and the photosynthetic activity is compartmentalized between the mesophyll and the bundle sheath. In C3 and CAM (Crassulacean acid metabolism) plants, the photosynthetic activity is generally attributed to the leaf mesophyll cells, and the vascular parenchymal cells are rarely considered for their role in photosynthesis. Recent studies demonstrate that enzymes required for C4 photosynthesis are also active in the veins of C3 plants, and their vascular system contains photosynthetically competent parenchyma cells. However, our understanding of photosynthesis in veins of C3 and CAM plants still remains insufficient. Here spatial analysis of photosynthesis-related properties were applied to the midrib and the interveinal lamina cells in leaves of Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, a C3–CAM intermediate plant.Methods The midrib anatomy as well as chloroplast structure and chlorophyll fluorescence, diurnal gas exchange profiles, the immunoblot patterns of PEPC (phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase) and RubisCO (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase), H2O2 localization and antioxidant enzyme activities were compared in the midrib and in the interveinal mesophyll cells in leaves of C3 and CAM plants.Key Results Leaf midribs were structurally competent to perform photosynthesis in C3 and CAM plants. The midrib chloroplasts resembled those in the bundle sheath cells of C4 plants and were characterized by limited photosynthetic activity.Conclusions The metabolic roles of midrib chloroplasts differ in C3 and CAM plants. It is suggested that in leaves of C3 plants the midrib chloroplasts could be involved in the supply of CO2 for carboxylation, and in CAM plants they could provide malate to different metabolic processes and mediate H2O2 signalling.