Besides electron transfer reactions involved in the 'Z' scheme of photosynthesis, alternative electron transfer pathways have been characterized in chloroplasts. These include cyclic electron flow around photosystem I (PS I) or a respiratory chain called chlororespiration. Recent work has supplied new information concerning the molecular nature of the electron carriers involved in the non-photochemical reduction of the plastoquinone (PQ) pool. However, until now little is known concerning the nature of the electron carriers involved in PQ oxidation. By using mass spectrometric measurement of oxygen exchange performed in the presence of 18O-enriched O2 and Chlamydomonas mutants deficient in PS I, we show that electrons can be directed to a quinol oxidase sensitive to propyl gallate but insensitive to salicyl hydroxamic acid. This oxidase has immunological and pharmacological similarities with a plastid protein involved in carotenoid biosynthesis.