In this work, the transfer of excitation energy was studied in native and cation-depletion induced, unstacked thylakoid membranes of spinach by steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. Fluorescence emission spectra at 5 K show an increase in photosystem I (PSI) emission upon unstacking, which suggests an increase of its antenna size. Fluorescence excitation measurements at 77 K indicate that the increase of PSI emission upon unstacking is caused both by a direct spillover from the photosystem II (PSII) core antenna and by a functional association of light-harvesting complex II (LHCII) to PSI, which is most likely caused by the formation of LHCII-LHCI-PSI supercomplexes. Time-resolved fluorescence measurements, both at room temperature and at 77 K, reveal differences in the fluorescence decay kinetics of stacked and unstacked membranes. Energy transfer between LHCII and PSI is observed to take place within 25 ps at room temperature and within 38 ps at 77 K, consistent with the formation of LHCII-LHCI-PSI supercomplexes. At the 150-160 ps timescale, both energy transfer from LHCII to PSI as well as spillover from the core antenna of PSII to PSI is shown to occur at 77 K. At room temperature the spillover and energy transfer to PSI is less clear at the 150 ps timescale, because these processes compete with charge separation in the PSII reaction center, which also takes place at a timescale of about 150 ps. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.