Plasticity of photoprotective mechanisms of Buxus sempervirens L. leaves in response to extreme temperatures

Plant Biol (Stuttg). 2007 Jan;9(1):59-68. doi: 10.1055/s-2006-924456. Epub 2006 Sep 28.


Summer 2003 was unusually hot in Western Europe, with local droughts and an intense heatwave, that led to a massive damage in vegetation. Since high temperatures are supposed to generate photooxidative stress, we analysed photoprotective responses in leaves of the evergreen boxtree (Buxus sempervirens L.) during summer 2003. All the photoprotective compounds analysed (alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, and xanthophylls cycle pigments) were simultaneously induced in parallel with a reduction in photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm). To characterise these responses, we compared these data with other data obtained during cold stress periods (2003, 2005) and with an unstressful summer (2002). Photoprotective responses observed during the heatwave were also induced by low temperature stress, and in both situations, this effect was exacerbated by light. In parallel with such induction the accumulation of red retro-carotenoids and xanthophyll esters was also observed under unfavourable conditions, suggesting a photoprotective role for both groups of carotenoids. This is the first report showing that in any species (Buxus sempervirens L.), the same retro-carotenoids can be induced in response to winter and summer stress. Present results demonstrate that the same mechanisms are induced as response to sub- and supraoptimal temperatures and the plasticity of such responses plays a critical role in plant acclimation to extreme temperatures, an ability that is specially important in the context of any future climate warming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Buxus / metabolism
  • Buxus / physiology*
  • Buxus / radiation effects
  • Carotenoids / metabolism
  • Carotenoids / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / radiation effects
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Plant Leaves / radiation effects
  • Seasons
  • Temperature*


  • Carotenoids