Photoinhibition is an inevitable consequence of oxygenic photosynthesis. However, the concept of a 'photoinhibition-proof' plant in which photosystem II (PSII) is immune to photodamage is useful as a benchmark for considering the performances of plants with varying mixes of mechanisms which limit the extent of photodamage and which repair photodamage. Some photodamage is bound to occur, and the energy costs of repair are the direct costs of repair plus the photosynthesis foregone during repair. One mechanism permitting partial avoidance of photodamage is restriction of the number of photons incident on the photosynthetic apparatus per unit time, achieved by phototactic movement of motile algae to places with lower incident photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), by phototactic movement of plastids within cells to positions that minimize the incident PAR and by photonastic relative movements of parts of photolithotrophs attached to a substrate. The other means of avoiding photodamage is dissipating excitation of photosynthetic pigments including state transitions, non-photochemical quenching by one of the xanthophyll cycles or some other process and photochemical quenching by increased electron flow through PSII involving CO₂ and other acceptors, including the engagement of additional electron transport pathways. These mechanisms inevitably have the potential to decrease the rate of growth. As well as the decreased photosynthetic rates as a result of photodamage and the restrictions on photosynthesis imposed by the repair, avoidance, quenching and scavenging mechanisms, there are also additional energy, nitrogen and phosphorus costs of producing and operating repair, avoidance, quenching and scavenging mechanisms. A comparison is also made between the costs of photoinhibition and those of other plant functions impeded by the occurrence of oxygenic photosynthesis, i.e. the competitive inhibition of the carboxylase activity of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase by oxygen via the oxygenase activity, and oxygen damage to nitrogenase in diazotrophic organisms.
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