The light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b complex (LHC II) and four photosystem II (PS II) core proteins (8.3, 32, 34 and 44 kDa) become phosphorylated in response to reduction of the intersystem electron transport chain of green plant chloroplasts. Previous studies indicated that reduction of the plastoquinone (PQ) pool is the key event in kinase activation. However, we show here that, unlike PS II proteins, LHC II is phosphorylated only when the cytochrome b6f complex is active. Two lines of evidence support this conclusion. (1) 2,5-Dibromo-3-methyl-6-isopropyl-p-benzoquinone (DBMIB) and the 2,4-dinitrophenyl ether of iodonitrothymol (DNP-INT), which are known to block electron flow into the cytochrome complex, selectively inhibit LHC II phosphorylation in spinach thylakoids. (2) The hcf6 mutant of maize, which contains PQ but lacks the cytochrome b6f complex, phosphorylates the four PS II proteins but fails to phosphorylate LHC II in vivo or in vitro.