Photoprotective nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) of absorbed solar energy is vital for survival of photosynthetic organisms, and NPQ modifications significantly improve plant productivity. However, the exact NPQ quenching mechanism is obscured by discrepancies between reported mechanisms, involving xanthophyll-chlorophyll (Xan-Chl) and Chl-Chl interactions. We present evidence of an experimental artifact that may explain the discrepancies: strong laser pulses lead to the formation of a novel electronic species in the major plant light-harvesting complex (LHCII). This species evolves from a high excited state of Chl a and is absent with weak laser pulses. It resembles an excitonically coupled heterodimer of Chl a and lutein (or other Xans at site L1) and acts as a de-excitation channel. Laser powers, and consequently amounts of artifact, vary strongly between NPQ studies, thereby explaining contradicting spectral signatures attributed to NPQ. Our results offer pathways toward unveiling NPQ mechanisms and highlight the necessity of careful attention to laser-induced artifacts.
- Journal Article