Under excess illumination, the Photosystem II light-harvesting antenna of higher plants has the ability to switch into an efficient photoprotective mode, allowing safe dissipation of excitation energy into heat. In this study, we show induction of the energy dissipation state, monitored by chlorophyll fluorescence quenching, in the isolated major light-harvesting complex (LHCII) incorporated into a solid gel system. Removal of detergent caused strong fluorescence quenching, which was totally reversible. Singlet-singlet annihilation and gel electrophoresis experiments suggested that the quenched complexes were in the trimeric not aggregated state. Both the formation and recovery of this quenching state were inhibited by a cross-linker, implying involvement of conformational changes. Absorption and CD measurements performed on the samples in the quenched state revealed specific alterations in the spectral bands assigned to the red forms of chlorophyll a, neoxanthin, and lutein 1 molecules. The majority of these alterations were similar to those observed during LHCII aggregation. This suggests that not the aggregation process as such but rather an intrinsic conformational transition in the complex is responsible for establishment of quenching. 77 K fluorescence measurements showed redshifted chlorophyll a fluorescence in the 690-705 nm region, previously observed in aggregated LHCII. The fact that all spectral changes associated with the dissipative mode observed in the gel were different from those of the partially denatured complex strongly argues against the involvement of protein denaturation in the observed quenching. The implications of these findings for proposed mechanisms of energy dissipation in the Photosystem II antenna are discussed. © 2008 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.