Lutein, neoxanthin and violaxanthin are the main xanthophyll pigment constituents of the largest light-harvesting pigment-protein complex of photosystem II (LHCII). High performance liquid chromatography analysis revealed photoisomerization of LHCII-bound violaxanthin from the conformation all-trans to the conformation 13-cis and 9-cis. Maximally, the conversion of 15% of all-trans violaxanthin to a cis form could be achieved owing to the light-driven reactions. The reactions were dark-reversible. The all-trans to cis isomerization was found to be driven by blue light, absorbed by chlorophylls and carotenoids, as well as by red light, absorbed exclusively by chlorophyll pigments. This suggests that the photoisomerization is a carotenoid triplet-sensitized reaction. The monomolecular layer technique was applied to study the effect of the 13-cis conformer of violaxanthin and its de-epoxidized form, zeaxanthin, on the organization of LHCII as compared to the all-trans stereoisomers. The specific molecular areas of LHCII in the two-component system composed of protein and exogenous 13-cis violaxanthin or 13-cis zeaxanthin show overadditivity, which is an indication of the xanthophyll-induced disassembly of the aggregated forms of the protein. Such an effect was not observed in the monomolecular layers of LHCII containing all-trans conformers of violaxanthin and zeaxanthin. 77 K chlorophyll a fluorescence emission spectra recorded from the Langmuir-Blodgett (L-B) films deposited to quartz from monomolecular layers formed with LHCII and LHCII in the two-component systems with all-trans and 13-cis isomers of violaxanthin and zeaxanthin revealed opposite effects of both conformers on the aggregation of the protein. The cis isomers of both xanthophylls were found to decrease the aggregation level of LHCII and the all-trans isomers increased the aggregation level. The calculated efficiency of excitation energy transfer to chlorophyll a from violaxanthin assumed to remain in two steric conformations was analyzed on the basis of the chlorophyll a fluorescence excitation spectra and the mean orientation of violaxanthin molecules in LHCII (71 degrees with respect to the normal to the membrane), determined recently in the linear dichroism experiments [Gruszecki et al., Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1412 (1999) 173-183]. The calculated efficiency of excitation energy transfer from the violaxanthin pool assumed to remain in conformation all-trans was found to be almost independent on the orientation angle within a variability range. In contrast the calculated efficiency of energy transfer from the form cis was found to be strongly dependent on the orientation and varied between 1.0 (at 67.48 degrees ) and 0 (at 70.89 degrees ). This is consistent with two essentially different, possible functions of the cis forms of violaxanthin: as a highly efficient excitation donor (and possibly energy transmitter between other chromophores) or purely as a LHCII structure modifier.