We have investigated the circular dichroism spectral transients associated with the light-induced reversible reorganizations in chirally organized macrodomains of pea thylakoid membranes and loosely stacked lamellar aggregates of the main chlorophyll a/b light harvesting complexes (LHCII) isolated from the same membranes. These reorganizations have earlier been assigned to originate from a thermo-optic effect. According to the thermo-optic mechanism, fast local thermal transients due to dissipation of the excess excitation energy induce elementary structural changes in the close vicinity of the dissipation [Cseh et al. (2000) Biochemistry 39: 15250-15257]. Here we show that despite the markedly different CD spectra in the dark, the transient (light-minus-dark) CD spectra associated with the structural changes induced by high light in thylakoids and LHCII are virtually indistinguishable. This, together with other close similarities between the two systems, strongly suggests that the gross short-term, thermo-optically induced structural reorganizations in the membranes occur mainly, albeit probably not exclusively, in the LHCII-only domains [Boekema et al. (2000) J Mol Biol 301: 1123-1133]. Hence, LHCII-only domains might play an important role in light adaptation and photoprotection of plants.