Leaf green-white variegation is advantageous under N deprivation in Pelargonium x hortorum

Cyril Abadie, Marlène Lamothe, Caroline Mauve, Françoise Gilard, Guillaume Tcherkez*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Variegation (patchy surface area with different colours) is a common trait of plant leaves. In green-white variegated leaves, two tissues with contrasted primary carbon metabolisms (autotrophic in green and heterotrophic in white tissues) are juxtaposed. It is generally believed that variegation is detrimental to growth due to the lower photosynthetic surface area. However, the common occurrence of leaf variegation in nature raises the question of a possible advantage under certain circumstances. Here, we examined growth and metabolism of variegated Pelargonium x hortorum L.H.Bailey using metabolomics techniques under N deprivation. Our results showed that variegated plants tolerate N deficiency much better, i.e. do not stop leaf biomass production after 9 weeks of N deprivation, even though the growth of green plants is eventually arrested and leaf senescence is triggered. Metabolic analysis indicates that white areas are naturally enriched in arginine, which decreases a lot upon N deprivation, probably to feed green areas. This process may compensate for the lower proteolysis enhancement in green areas and thus contribute to maintaining photosynthetic activity. We conclude that under our experimental conditions, leaf variegation was advantageous under prolonged N deprivation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)543-551
    Number of pages9
    JournalFunctional Plant Biology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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