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Artemisia annua L. produces a compound called artemisinin that is a potent anti-malarial compound. However concentration of artemisinin within the plant is typically low (less than 0.8% of dry mass) and currently supply of the drug by the plant does not meet world demand. This investigation was carried out to determine whether high intensity light treatment would increase production of artemisinin in leaves of A. annua. Photoinhibition (14%) was induced in leaves of A. annua when they were subjected to 6 h of high-intensity light [2,000 μmol (photon) m–2 s–1]. Maximum photochemical efficiency of PSII showed a recovery of up to 95% within 24 h of light induced inhibition. During the light treatment, photochemical efficiency of PSII in leaves of the high-intensity light-treated plants was 38% lower than for those from leaves of plants subjected to a low-intensity-light treatment of 100 μmol (photon) m–2 s–1. Nonphotochemical quenching of excess excitation energy was 2.7 times higher for leaves treated with high-intensity light than for those irradiated with low-intensity light. Elevation in oxidative stress in irradiated leaves increased presence of reactive oxygen species (ROS) including singlet oxygen, superoxide anions, and hydrogen peroxide. Importantly, the concentration of artemisinin in leaves was two-fold higher for leaves treated with high-intensity light, as compared to those treated with low-intensity light. These results indicate that A. annua responds to high irradiance through nonphotochemical dissipation of light energy yet is subject to photoinhibitory loss of photosynthetic capacity. It can be concluded that A. annua is capable of rapid recovery from photoinhibition caused by high light intensity. High light intensity also induced oxidative stress characterized by increased concentration of ROS which enhanced the content of artemisinin. Such a light treatment may be useful for the purpose of increasing artemisinin content in A.annua prior to harvest.


This article was published in the journal Photosynthetica. The final publication is available at Springer via



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