Defining Senescence and Death in Photosynthetic Tissues

  • Larry D. NoodénEmail author
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 36)


Having clear concepts of senescence and aging, as well as the diverse related terminology, will foster these and related fields by facilitating communication within and between the academic constituencies that study them. Moreover, it will enable those working on photosynthetic tissues to contribute more to and draw more help from other fields ranging from gerontology to evolution. Senescence is a very important developmental process in the life cycle of organisms, especially photosynthetic organisms where it is often very dramatic. Senescence is commonly viewed as an increase in the probability that an organism will die as it ages chronologically (demographic view); however, plant physiologists/molecular biologists go a step further to define senescence as internal processes that actively cause death (physiological view). During senescence, a very wide range of changes (senescence syndrome) occur at the cell, organ and organismic levels; however, many are not causal and therefore not senescence per se. Although chloroplast degradation during senescence may not cause death, the decline in photosynthesis is very important and may limit agricultural/biomass productivity. Senescence is actively driven by the nucleus (necrogenic processes), but it also involves shutdown of life-supporting (biostatic) processes. Death, the endpoint of senescence, can be defined generally as the collapse of homeostasis. At the cell level, death appears to be the loss of the plasma membranes’ ability to retain/exclude molecules. Exactly how senescence brings the cells that comprise organs/organisms to death is not clear; however, programmed cell death processes participate in the end stage.


Photosynthetic Tissue Cell Death Process Chlorophyll Loss Global Failure Chlorophyll Breakdown 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



– Programmed cell death



I am greatly indebted to John Megahan, Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan for his help with the figures.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology-MCDB/EEBUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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