Demonstration of a relationship between state transitions and photosynthetic efficiency in a higher plant

Craig R. Taylor*, Wim van Ieperen, Jeremy Harbinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A consequence of the series configuration of PSI and PSII is that imbalanced excitation of the photosystems leads to a reduction in linear electron transport and a drop in photosynthetic efficiency. Achieving balanced excitation is complicated by the distinct nature of the photosystems, which differ in composition, absorption spectra, and intrinsic efficiency, and by a spectrally variable natural environment. The existence of long- and short-term mechanisms that tune the photosynthetic apparatus and redistribute excitation energy between the photosystems highlights the importance of maintaining balanced excitation. In the short term, state transitions help restore balance through adjustments which, though not fully characterised, are observable using fluorescence techniques. Upon initiation of a state transition in algae and cyanobacteria, increases in photosynthetic efficiency are observable. However, while higher plants show fluorescence signatures associated with state transitions, no correlation between a state transition and photosynthetic efficiency has been demonstrated. In the present study, state 1 and state 2 were alternately induced in tomato leaves by illuminating leaves produced under artificial sun and shade spectra with a sequence of irradiances extreme in terms of PSI or PSII overexcitation. Light-use efficiency increased in both leaf types during transition from one state to the other with remarkably similar kinetics to that of F'm/Fm, F'o/Fo, and, during the PSII-overexciting irradiance, ΦPSII and qP. We have provided compelling evidence for the first time of a correlation between photosynthetic efficiency and state transitions in a higher plant. The importance of this relationship in natural ecophysiological contexts remains to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3295-3312
Number of pages18
JournalThe Biochemical journal
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019


  • light-use efficiency
  • photosynthesis
  • photosystems
  • state transitions


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