Chlorophyll fluorescence measurements were performed on osmotically lysed potato chloroplasts in order to characterize the reactions involved in the dark reduction of photosynthetic inter-system chain electron carriers. Addition of NADH or NADPH to lysed chloroplasts increased the chlorophyll fluorescence level measured in the presence of a non-actinic light until reaching Fmax, thus indicating an increase in the redox state of the plastoquinone (PQ) pool. The fluorescence increase was more pronounced when the experiment was carried out under anaerobic conditions and was about 50% higher when NADH rather than NADPH was used as an electron donor. The NAD(P)H-PQ oxidoreductase reaction was inhibited by diphenylene iodonium, N-ethylmaleimide and dicoumarol, but insensitive to rotenone, antimycin A and piericidin A. By comparing the substrate specificity and the inhibitor sensitivity of this reaction to the properties of spinach ferredoxin-NADP+-reductase (FNR), we infer that FNR is not involved in the NAD(P)H-PQ oxidoreductase activity and conclude to the participation of rotenone-insensitive NAD(P)H-PQ oxidoreductase. By measuring light-dependent oxygen uptake in the presence of DCMU, methyl viologen and NADH or NADPH as an electron donors, the electron flow rate through the NAD(P)H-PQ oxidoreductase is estimated to about 160 nmol O2 min-1 mg-1 chlorophyll. The nature of this enzyme is discussed in relation to the existence of a thylakoidal NADH dehydrogenase complex encoded by plastidial ndh genes. Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.