The relationship between isoprene emission rate and dark respiration rate in white poplar (Populus alba L.) leaves

Francesco Loreto, Mauro Centritto, Csengele Barta, Carlo Calfapietra, Silvano Fares, Russell K. Monson

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73 Scopus citations


In past studies, it was hypothesized that reductions in chloroplast isoprene emissions at high atmospheric CO2 concentrations were caused by competition between cytosolic and mitochondrial processes for the same substrate, possibly phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP). We conducted field and laboratory experiments using leaves of white poplar (Populus alba L.) to identify whether an inverse relationship occurs between the dark respiration rate (a mitochondrial process) and the isoprene emission rate. Field experiments that were carried out in a free-air CO2-enriched (FACE) facility showed no clear effect of elevated CO2 on either isoprene emission rate or respiration rate by leaves. In young, not yet fully expanded leaves, low isoprene emission and high dark respiration rates were measured in both ambient and elevated CO2. In these leaves, isoprene emission was inversely correlated with dark respiration. It is possible to interpret from these results that, in young leaves, high rates of growth respiration compete with isoprene biosynthesis for the same substrate. However, it is also possible that the negative correlation reflects the contrasting reductions in growth respiration and increases in expression of the enzyme isoprene synthase at this final stage of leaf maturation. In contrast to our observations on young leaves, respiration rate and isoprene emission rate were positively correlated in older, fully expanded leaves (8 and 11 from apex). A positive correlation was also found between respiration rate and isoprene emission rate when these parameters were modulated using different ozone exposure, growth light intensity, growth temperature and exposure to different leaf temperatures in laboratory experiments. These data show that competition for substrate between isoprene biosynthesis and leaf respiration does not determine the rate of isoprene emission in most circumstances that affect both processes. A negative correlation was observed across all experiments between isoprene emission rate and the activity of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPc), a cytosolic enzyme that competes with isoprene biosynthesis for substrate. The cytosolic metabolite, PEP, occurs at a metabolic branch point from which substrate flows into three processes: (1) the production of pyruvate for mitochondrial respiration, (2) the production of oxaloacetate (OAA) by PEPc for anabolic support of mitochondrial respiration and (3) transport into the chloroplast to support chloroplastic demands for pyruvate, including isoprenoid biosynthesis. The results of our observations suggest that only the second process competes for substrate with isoprenoid synthesis, while the partitioning of PEP between mitochondrial respiration and chloroplast isoprenoid biosynthesis is controlled in a way that retains balance in substrate demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)662-669
Number of pages8
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • CO
  • Phosphoenolpyruvate
  • Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase
  • Photosynthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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