The effects of low growth temperature (15 degrees C) on the photosynthetic apparatus of maize were investigated in a set of 233 recombinant inbred lines by means of chlorophyll fluorescence, gas exchange measurements and analysis of photosynthetic pigments. A quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis of five traits related to the functioning of the photosynthetic apparatus revealed a total of eight genomic regions that were significantly involved in the expression of the target traits. Four of these QTLs, located on chromosomes 1 (around 146 cM), 2 (around 138 cM), 3 (around 70 cM), and 9 (around 62 cM), were identified across several traits and the phenotypic correlation observed among those traits confirmed at the genetic level. The two QTLs on chromosomes 1 and 9 were also expressed in leaves developed at near-optimal temperature (25 degrees C) whilst the two QTLs on chromosomes 2 and 3 were specific to leaves developed at sub-optimal temperature. A QTL analysis conducted on traits related to the pigment composition of the leaves developed at 15 degrees C detected the QTL on chromosome 3 around 70 cM in 7 of the 11 traits analysed. This QTL accounted for up to 28% of the phenotypic variance of the quantum yield of electron transport at PSII in the fourth leaf after about 3 weeks at a sub-optimal temperature. The results presented here suggest that key gene(s) involved in the development of functional chloroplasts of maize at low temperature should be located on chromosome 3, close to the centromere.