Disentangling the sites of non-photochemical quenching in vascular plants

Lauren Nicol, Wojciech J. Nawrocki, Roberta Croce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In nature, plants experience large fluctuations in light intensity and they need to balance the absorption and utilization of this energy appropriately. Non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) is a rapidly switchable mechanism that protects plants from photodamage caused by high light exposure by dissipating the excess absorbed energy as heat. It is triggered by the pH gradient across the thylakoid membrane and requires the protein PsbS and the xanthophyll zeaxanthin. However, the site and mechanism of the quencher(s) remain unknown. Here, we constructed a mutant of Arabidopsis thaliana that lacks light-harvesting complex II (LHCII), the main antenna complex of plants, to verify its contribution to NPQ. The mutant plant has normally stacked thylakoid membranes, displays no upregulation of other LHCs but shows a relative decrease in Photosystem I (PSI), which compensates for the decrease of the PSII antenna. The mutant plant exhibits a reduction in NPQ of about 60% and the remaining NPQ resembles that of mutant plants lacking chlorophyll (Chl) b, which lack all PSII peripheral antenna complexes. We thus report that PsbS-dependent NPQ occurs mainly in LHCII, but there is an additional quenching site in the PSII core.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1183
Number of pages7
JournalNature Plants
Issue number11
Early online date28 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


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