Hcf136 encodes a hydrophilic protein localized in the lumen of stroma thylakoids. Its mutational inactivation in Arabidopsis thaliana results in a photosystem II (PHII)-less phenotype. Under standard illumination, PSII is not detectable and the amount of photosystem I (PSI) is reduced, which implies that HCF136p may be required for photosystem biogenesis in general. However, at low light, a comparison of mutants with defects in PSII, PSI, and the cytochrome b(6)f complex reveals that HCF136p regulates selectively biogenesis of PSII. We demonstrate by in vivo radiolabeling of hcf136 that biogenesis of the reaction center (RC) of PSII is blocked. Gel blot analysis and affinity chromatography of solubilized thylakoid membranes suggest that HCF136p associates with a PSII precomplex containing at least D2 and cytochrome b(559). We conclude that HCF136p is essential for assembly of the RC of PSII and discuss its function as a chaperone-like assembly factor.