Apart from a role in cell wall structure, specific functions for boron (B) in plants are unclear; hence, responses and adaptations to B stress are incompletely understood. We tested hypotheses that net photosynthesis (Pn) decreases with B deficiency before visible foliar symptoms and that higher nonphotoinhibitory light levels enhance soluble carbohydrate status and therefore mitigate B deficiency. Geranium (
Pelargonium× hortorumL.H. Bailey cv. Nittany Lion Red) plants were grown hydroponically and were then exposed to normal (45 μ m) or deficient (0 μ m) B at two light levels [100 or 300 μmol·m−2·s−1 photosynthetically active radiation ( PAR)]. Photosynthesis [net CO2 uptake, carboxylation, and photosystem II (PSII) efficiency] was monitored for 5 days, as were concentrations of B, chlorophyll, soluble sugars, total protein, and several photosynthetic and stress proteins [ribulose 1,5-bisphospate carboxylase oxygenase (rubisco), rubisco activase, oxygen-evolving complex-23 (OEC23), Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD), Mn-SOD, and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A-2 (eIF5A-2)]. Biomass and sugar concentration were greater in high light, and mass was decreased by B deficiency only in leaves in high light. Boron deficiency decreased [B] in all tissues, especially in new leaves. Carboxylation efficiency and Pn decreased within 1 day of B deficiency in low light, but not until 5 days in high light. Chlorophyll concentration decreased, and Mn-SOD increased transiently, with B deficiency in both light levels, but no other effects of low B were observed. Protection of Pn by higher light was confirmed in a different cultivar (Maverick White) grown at 100, 300, and 500 μmol·m−2·s−1 PAR. Thus, in geranium, photosynthesis is affected by B deficiency before effects on leaf growth, and higher light can at least temporarily ameliorate B deficiency, perhaps partly due to enhanced carbohydrate status.
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