Photoinactivation of PSII is thought to be caused by the excessive light energy that is neither used for photosynthetic electron transport nor dissipated as heat. However, the relationship between the photoinactivation rate and excess energy has not been quantitatively evaluated. Chenopodium album L. plants grown under high-light and high-nitrogen (HL-HN) conditions show higher tolerance to photoinactivation and have higher photosynthetic capacity than the high-light and low-nitrogen (HL-LN)- and low-light and high-nitrogen (LL-HN)-grown plants. The rate of photoinactivation in the LL-HN plants was faster than that in the HL-LN, which was similar to that in the HL-HN plants, while the LL-HN and HL-LN plants had similar photosynthetic capacities [Kato et al. (2002b) Funct. Plant Biol. 29: 787]. We quantified partitioning of light energy between the electron transport and heat dissipation at the light intensities ranging from 300 to 1,800 micromol m(-2) s(-1). The maximum electron transport rate was highest in the HL-HN plants, heat dissipation was greatest in the HL-LN plants, and the excess energy, which was neither consumed for electron transport nor dissipated as heat, was greatest in the LL-HN plants. The first-order rate constant of the PSII photoinactivation was proportional to the magnitude of excess energy, with a single proportional constant for all the plants, irrespective of their growth conditions. Thus the excess energy primarily determines the rate of PSII photoinactivation. A large photosynthetic capacity in the HL-HN plants and a large heat dissipation capacity in the HL-LN plants both contribute to the protection of PSII against photoinactivation.
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