The terminal electron acceptor of Photosystem II, PSII, is a linear complex consisting of a primary quinone, a non-heme iron(II), and a secondary quinone, Q(A)Fe(2+)Q(B). The complex is a sensitive site of PSII, where electron transfer is modulated by environmental factors and notably by bicarbonate. Earlier studies showed that NO and other small molecules (CN(-), F(-), carboxylate anions) bind reversibly on the non-heme iron in competition with bicarbonate. In the present study, we report on an unusual new mode of transient binding of NO, which is favored in the light-reduced state (Q(A)(-)Fe(2+)Q(B)) of the complex. The related observations are summarized as follows: (i) Incubation with NO at -30 degrees C, following light-induced charge separation, results in the evolution of a new EPR signal at g = 2.016. The signal correlates with the reduced state Q(A)(-)Fe(2+) of the iron-quinone complex. (ii) Cyanide, at low concentrations, converts the signal to a more rhombic form with g values at 2.027 (peak) and 1.976 (valley), while at high concentrations it inhibits formation of the signals. (iii) Electron spin-echo envelope modulation (ESEEM) experiments show the existence of two protein (14)N nuclei coupled to electron spin. These two nitrogens have been detected consistently in the environment of the semiquinone Q(A)(-) in a number of PSII preparations. (iv) NO does not directly contribute to the signals, as indicated by the absence of a detectable isotopic effect ((15)NO vs (14)NO) in cw EPR. (v) A third signal with g values (2.05, 2.03, 2.01) identical to those of an Fe(NO)(2)(imidazole) synthetic complex develops slowly in the dark, or faster following illumination. (vi) In comparison with the untreated Q(A)(-)Fe(2+) complex, the present signals not only are confined to a narrow spectral region but also saturate at low microwave power. At 11 K the g = 2.016 signal saturates with a P(1/2) of 110 microW and the g = 2.027/1.976 signal with a P(1/2) of 10 microW. (vii) The spectral shape and spin concentration of these signals is successfully reproduced, assuming a weak magnetic interaction (J values in the range 0.025-0.05 cm(-)(1)) between an iron-NO complex with total spin of (1)/(2) and the spin, (1)/(2), of the semiquinone, Q(A)(-). The different modes of binding of NO to the non-heme iron are examined in the context of a molecular model. An important aspect of the model is a trans influence of Q(A) reduction on the bicarbonate ligation to the iron, transmitted via H-bonding of Q(A) with an imidazole ligand to the iron.