A direct impact of chloroplastic protective energy dissipation (qE) on photosynthetic CO(2) assimilation has not been shown directly in plants in the absence of photoinhibition. To test this empirically we transformed rice to possess higher (overexpressors, OE) and lower (RNA interference, RNAi) levels of expression of the regulatory psbS gene and analysed CO(2) assimilation in transformants in a fluctuating measurement light regime. Western blots showed a several-fold difference in levels of PsbS protein between RNAi and OE plants with the wild type (WT) being intermediate. At a growth light intensity of 600 μmol m(-2) sec(-1) , the carboxylation capacity, electron transport capacity and dark adapted F(v)/F(m) (ratio of variable to maximum fluorescence) were inhibited in RNAi plants compared with WT and OE. The PsbS content had a significant impact on qE (measured here as non-photochemical quenching, NPQ) but the strongest effect was observed transiently, immediately following the application of light. This capacity for qE was several-fold lower in RNAi plants and significantly higher in OE plants during the first 10 min of illumination. At steady state the differences were reduced: notably at 500 μmol m(-2) sec(-1) all plants had the same NPQ values regardless of PsbS content. During a series of light-dark transitions the induction of CO(2) assimilation was inhibited in OE plants, reducing integrated photosynthesis during the light period. We conclude that the accumulation of PsbS and the resultant qE exerts control over photosynthesis in fluctuating light, showing that optimization of photoprotective processes is necessary for maximum photosynthetic productivity even in the absence of photoinhibitory stress.
© 2012 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.