Light quality affects light harvesting and carbon sequestration during the diel cycle of crassulacean acid metabolism in Phalaenopsis

  • Liang Zheng
  • Johan Ceusters
  • Marie-Christine Van LabekeEmail author
Original Article


Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is a specialized photosynthetic pathway present in a variety of genera including many epiphytic orchids. CAM is under circadian control and can be subdivided into four discrete phases during a diel cycle. Inherent to this specific mode of metabolism, carbohydrate availability is a limiting factor for nocturnal CO2 uptake and biomass production. To evaluate the effects of light quality on the photosynthetic performance and diel changes in carbohydrates during the CAM cycle. Phalaenopsis plants were grown under four different light qualities (red, blue, red + blue and full spectrum white light) at a fluence of 100 µmol m−2 s−1 and a photoperiod of 12 h for 8 weeks. In contrast to monochromatic blue light, plants grown under monochromatic red light showed already a significant decline of the quantum efficiency (ΦPSII) after 5 days and of the maximum quantum yield (Fv/Fm) after 10 days under this treatment. This was also reflected in a compromised chlorophyll and carotenoid content and total diel CO2 uptake under red light in comparison with monochromatic blue and full spectrum white light. In particular, CO2 uptake during nocturnal phase I was affected under red illumination resulting in a reduced amount of vacuolar malate. In addition, red light caused the rate of decarboxylation of malate during the day to be consistently lower and malic acid breakdown persisted until 4 h after dusk. Because the intrinsic activity of PEPC was not affected, the restricted availability of storage carbohydrates such as starch was likely to cause these adverse effects under red light. Addition of blue to the red light spectrum restored the diel fluxes of carbohydrates and malate and resulted in a significant enhancement of the daily CO2 uptake, pigment concentration and biomass formation.


CAM Phalaenopsis Carbohydrates Gas exchange PEPC Malate 



The first author received a CSC scholarship and a funding from Ghent University (BOF14/CHN/012).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plants and CropsGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Biosystems, Division of Crop Biotechnics, Research group for Sustainable Crop Production & ProtectionKU LeuvenGeelBelgium
  3. 3.College of Water Resource and Civil EngineeringChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Centre for Environmental Sciences, Environmental BiologyUHasseltDiepenbeekBelgium

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