Protoplasts were isolated from leaves of the aquatic angiosperm Potamogeton lucens L. The leaves utilize bicarbonate as a carbon source for photosynthesis, and show polarity; that is, acidification of the periplasmic space of the lower, and alkalinization of the space near the upper leaf side. At present there are two models under consideration for this photosynthetic bicarbonate utilization process: conversion of bicarbonate into free carbon dioxide as a result of acidification and, second, a bicarbonate-proton symport across the plasma membrane. Carbon fixation of protoplasts was studied at different pH values and compared with that in leaf strips. Using the isotopic disequilibrium technique, it was established that carbon dioxide and not bicarbonate was the form in which DIC actually crossed the plasma membrane. It is concluded that there is probably no true bicarbonate transport system at the plasma membrane of these cells and that bicarbonate utilization in this species apparently rests on the conversion of bicarbonate into carbon dioxide. Experiments with acetazolamide, an inhibitor of periplasmic carbonic anhydrase, and direct measurements of carbonic anhydrase activity in intact leaves indicate that in this species the role of this enzyme for periplasmic conversion of bicarbonate into carbon dioxide is insignificant.

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