Accumulation of plastid-encoded chlorophyll apoproteins and chlorophyll synthesis are controlled by light in angiosperms. An in vitro system utilizing isolated and lysed barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) etioplasts revealed the specific accumulation of P700, CP47, CP43 and D2 triggered by de novo synthesis of chlorophyll. Accumulation rates of radiolabelled chlorophyll apoproteins were linear for about 30 min. Pulse/chase translation assays showed that synthesis of chlorophyll does not result in increased chlorophyll apoprotein stability. Instead turnover rates of chlorophyll apoproteins were higher in the presence than in the absence of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll-dependent accumulation of chlorophyll apoproteins must therefore be regulated on the level of translation. Translation of chlorophyll apoproteins was blocked to about 50% by addition of 30-50 microM aurintricarboxylic acid or 20 microM kasugamycin. The kinetics of chlorophyll-dependent translation indicated that the in vitro translation system is capable of translation initiation. The capability of translation initiation was lost in lysed etioplasts after preincubation for at least 5 min without chlorophyll synthesis. The results suggest that initiation is involved in chlorophyll-dependent regulation of translation.