Variation in leaf dark respiration among C3 and C4 grasses is associated with use of different substrates

Plant Physiol. 2024 May 31;195(2):1475-1490. doi: 10.1093/plphys/kiae064.


Measurements of respiratory properties have often been made at a single time point either during daytime using dark-adapted leaves or during nighttime. The influence of the day-night cycle on respiratory metabolism has received less attention but is crucial to understand photosynthesis and photorespiration. Here, we examined how CO2- and O2-based rates of leaf dark respiration (Rdark) differed between midday (after 30-min dark adaptation) and midnight in 8 C3 and C4 grasses. We used these data to calculate the respiratory quotient (RQ; ratio of CO2 release to O2 uptake), and assessed relationships between Rdark and leaf metabolome. Rdark was higher at midday than midnight, especially in C4 species. The day-night difference in Rdark was more evident when expressed on a CO2 than O2 basis, with the RQ being higher at midday than midnight in all species, except in rice (Oryza sativa). Metabolomic analyses showed little correlation of Rdark or RQ with leaf carbohydrates (sucrose, glucose, fructose, or starch) but strong multivariate relationships with other metabolites. The results suggest that rates of Rdark and differences in RQ were determined by several concurrent CO2-producing and O2-consuming metabolic pathways, not only the tricarboxylic acid cycle (organic acids utilization) but also the pentose phosphate pathway, galactose metabolism, and secondary metabolism. As such, Rdark was time-, type- (C3/C4) and species-dependent, due to the use of different substrates.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Dioxide* / metabolism
  • Cell Respiration*
  • Darkness
  • Metabolome
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Leaves* / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves* / physiology
  • Poaceae* / metabolism
  • Poaceae* / physiology


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen