Photosystem II of higher plants is protected against light damage by thermal dissipation of excess excitation energy, a process that can be monitored through non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence. When the light intensity is lowered, non-photochemical quenching largely disappears on a time scale ranging from tens of seconds to many minutes. With the use of picosecond fluorescence spectroscopy, we demonstrate that one of the underlying mechanisms is only functional when the reaction centre of photosystem II is closed, that is when electron transfer is blocked and the risk of photodamage is high. This is accompanied by the appearance of a long-wavelength fluorescence band. As soon as the reaction centre reopens, this quenching, together with the long-wavelength fluorescence, disappears instantaneously. This allows plants to maintain a high level of photosynthetic efficiency even in dangerous high-light conditions.
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The authors thank J. Philippi for the design and construction of the moving cuvette and actinic lighting system and R. Croce for critically reading the manuscript. H.v.A. and S.F. received financial support from the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM), which is part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). E.W. acknowledges funding from a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship (655542; E.W.) and a Veni grant (016.161.038; E.W.) from the NWO, Earth and Life Sciences (ALW). J.C. and L.V. were supported by the Research Council of Lithuania (LMT grant no. MIP-080/2015).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Farooq, S., Chmeliov, J., Wientjes, E. et al. Dynamic feedback of the photosystem II reaction centre on photoprotection in plants. Nature Plants 4, 225–231 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-018-0127-8
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