The protein assembly and stability of photosystem II (PSII) (sub)complexes were studied in mature leaves of four plastid mutants of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L), each having one of the psbEFLJ operon genes inactivated. In the absence of psbL, no PSII core dimers or PSII-light harvesting complex (LHCII) supercomplexes were formed, and the assembly of CP43 into PSII core monomers was extremely labile. The assembly of CP43 into PSII core monomers was found to be necessary for the assembly of PsbO on the lumenal side of PSII. The two other oxygen-evolving complex (OEC) proteins, PsbP and PsbQ, were completely lacking in Delta psbL. In the absence of psbJ, both intact PSII core monomers and PSII core dimers harboring the PsbO protein were formed, whereas the LHCII antenna remained detached from the PSII dimers, as demonstrated by 77 K fluorescence measurements and by the lack of PSII-LHCII supercomplexes. The Delta psbJ mutant was characterized by a deficiency of PsbQ and a complete lack of PsbP. Thus, both the PsbL and PsbJ subunits of PSII are essential for proper assembly of the OEC. The absence of psbE and psbF resulted in a complete absence of all central PSII core and OEC proteins. In contrast, very young, vigorously expanding leaves of all psbEFLJ operon mutants accumulated at least traces of D2, CP43 and the OEC proteins PsbO and PsbQ, implying developmental control of the expression of the PSII core and OEC proteins. Despite severe problems in PSII assembly, the thylakoid membrane complexes other than PSII were present and correctly assembled in all psbEFLJ operon mutants.