Enhanced photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency and increased nitrogen allocation to photosynthetic machinery under cotton domestication

Lei ZY, Wang H, Wright IJ, Zhu X-G, Niinemets Ü, Li Z-L, Sun D-S, Dong N, Zhang W-F, Zhou Z-L, Liu F and Zhang Y-L

Photosynthesis Research


Domestication involves dramatic phenotypic and physiological diversifications due to successive selection by breeders toward high yield and quality. Although photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (PNUE) is a major trait for understanding leaf nitrogen economy, it is unclear whether PNUE of cotton has been improved under domestication. Here, we investigated the effect of domestication on nitrogen allocation to photosynthetic machinery and PNUE in 25 wild and 37 domesticated cotton genotypes. The results showed that domesticated genotypes had higher nitrogen content per mass (Nm), net photosynthesis under saturated light (Asat), and PNUE but similar nitrogen content per area (Na) compared with wild genotypes. As expected, in both genotypes, PNUE was positively related to Asat but negatively correlated with Na. However, the relative contribution of Asat to PNUE was greater than the contribution from Na. Domesticated genotypes had higher nitrogen allocation to light-harvesting (NL, nitrogen in light-harvesting chlorophyll–protein complex), to bioenergetics (Nb, total nitrogen of cytochrome f, ferredoxin NADP reductase, and the coupling factor), and to Rubisco (Nr) than wild genotypes; however, the two genotype groups did not differ in PNUEp, the ratio of Asat to Np (itself the sum of NLNb, and Nr). Our results suggest that more nitrogen allocation to photosynthetic machinery has boosted Asat under cotton domestication. Improving the efficiency of nitrogen use in photosynthetic machinery might be future aim to enhance Asat of cotton.