The distribution of leaf nitrogen among photosynthetic proteins (i.e. chlorophyll, the electron transport system, Rubisco, and other soluble proteins) responds to environmental changes. We hypothesize that this response may underlie the biochemical aspect of leaf acclimation to the growth environment, and describe an analytical method to solve optimum nitrogen partitioning for maximized photosynthesis in C3 leaves. The method predicts a high investment of nitrogen in Rubisco under conditions leading to excessive energy supply relative to metabolic demand (e.g. low temperature, high light, low nitrogen, or low CO2). Conversely, more nitrogen is invested in chlorophyll when the energy supply is limiting. Overall, our optimization results are qualitatively consistent with literature reports. Commonly reported changes in photosynthetic parameters with growth temperature were emergent properties of the optimum nitrogen partitioning. The method was used to simulate dynamic acclimation under varying environmental conditions, using first-order kinetics. Simulated diurnal patterns of leaf photosynthetic rates as a result of acclimation differed greatly from those without acclimation (Awithout). However, differences in predicted photosynthesis integrated over a day or over the growing season from Awithout depended on the value of the kinetic time constant (τ), suggesting that τ is a critical parameter determining the overall impact of nitrogen distribution on acclimated photosynthesis.