Changes of photosynthetic activities of maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings in response to cadmium stress

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Maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings were grown in nutrient solution culture containing 0, 5, and 20 μM cadmium (Cd) and the effects on various aspects of photosynthesis were investigated after 24, 48, 96 and 168 h of Cd treatments. Photosynthetic rate (PN) decreased after 48 h of 20 μM Cd and 96 h of 5μM Cd addition, respectively. Chl a and total Chl content in leaves declined under 48 h of Cd exposure. Chl b content decreased on extending the period of Cd exposure to 96 h. The maximum quantum efficiency and potential photosynthetic capacity of PSII, indicated by Fv/Fm and Fv/Fo, respectively, were depressed after 96 h onset of Cd exposure. After 48 h of 5μM Cd and 24 h of 20 μM Cd treatments, the activities of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco, EC 4.1.39) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC, EC in the leaves started to decrease, respectively. We found that the limitation of photosynthetic capacity in Cd stressed maize leaves was associated with Cd toxicity on the light and the dark stages. However, Cd stress initially reduced the activities of Rubisco and PEPC and subsequently affected the PSII electron transfer, suggesting that the Calvin cycle reactions in maize plants are the primary target of the Cd toxic effect rather than PSII.

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