Metabolite levels have been compared in the dark and during photosynthesis in leaves and protoplasts from spinach, pea, wheat and barley. In protoplasts the subcellular distribution was also studied. The levels of triose phosphates and sugar bisphosphates were high in the light and low in the dark. The hexose phosphates and 3-phosphoglycerate levels in the dark were very variable depending on the plant material. In most conditions, hexose phosphates and triose phosphates were mainly in the extrachloroplast compartment, while 3-phosphoglycerate and the sugar bisphosphates were mainly in the chloroplast compartment. Leaves always had a very low triose phosphate: 3-phosphoglycerate ratio in the dark, but in protoplasts this ratio was higher. Detailed studies with spinach showed that metabolite levels were very dependent on the availability of carbohydrate in the leaf, particularly starch. Starch mobilisation is not controlled just by the availability of inorganic phosphate and accumulation of phosphorylated intermediates. Hydrolysis of starch may provide precursors for sucrose synthesis while phosphorolysis leads to provision of substrates for respiration. Starch breakdown generates high enough levels of hexose phosphate to support substantial rates of sucrose synthesis in the dark. Respiration is not greatly increased when metabolite levels are high during starch mobilisation. Higher levels of metabolites shorten the length of the induction phase of photosynthesis.