Arabidopsis thaliana leaves with altered chloroplast numbers and chloroplast movement exhibit impaired adjustments to both low and high light

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The effects of chloroplast number and size on the capacity for blue light-dependent chloroplast movement, the ability to increase light absorption under low light, and the susceptibility to photoinhibition were investigated in Arabidopsis thaliana. Leaves of wild-type and chloroplast number mutants with mean chloroplast numbers ranging from 120 to two per mesophyll cell were analysed. Chloroplast movement was monitored as changes in light transmission through the leaves. Light transmission was used as an indicator of the ability of leaves to optimize light absorption. The ability of leaves to deal with 3 h of high light stress at 10 °C and their capacity to recover in low light was determined by measuring photochemical efficiencies of PSII using chlorophyll a fluorescence. Chloroplast movement was comparable in leaves ranging in chloroplast numbers from 120 to 30 per mesophyll cell: the final light transmission levels after exposure to 0.1 (accumulation response) and 100 μmol photons m−2 s−1 (avoidance response) were indistinguishable, the chloroplasts responded quickly to small increases in light intensity and the kinetics of movement were similar. However, when chloroplast numbers per mesophyll cell decreased to 18 or below, the accumulation response was significantly reduced. The avoidance response was only impaired in mutants with nine or fewer chloroplasts, both in terms of final transmission levels and the speed of movement. Only mutants lacking both blue light receptors (phot1/phot2) or those with drastically reduced chloroplast numbers and severely impacted avoidance responses showed a reduced ability to recover from high light stress.

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