Chlorophyll a fluorescence is a highly sensitive, non-destructive, and reliable tool for measuring, rather quickly, photosynthetic efficiency, particularly of Photosystem II (PSII), the water-plastoquinone oxidoreductase. We briefly review here the connection between the fast (up to 2 s) chlorophyll fluorescence rise and PSII, as well as the empirical use of the fluorescence rise kinetics in understanding photosynthetic reactions, particularly of PSII. When dark-adapted photosynthetic samples are exposed to light, a fluorescence induction is observed, known as the Kautsky effect, after Hans Kautsky, the discoverer of the phenomenon showing the existence of variable fluorescence. The chlorophyll fluorescence intensity rises from a minimum level (the O level), in less than 1 s, to a maximum level (the P-level) via two intermediate steps labeled J and I. This is followed by a decline to a lower semi-steady state level, the S level, which is reached in about one minute. We provide here an educational review on how this phenomenon has been exploited through analysis of the fast OJIP fluorescence transient, by discussing basic assumptions, derivation of equations, as well as application to PSII-related questions.
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