Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 201–215

Fitting light saturation curves measured using modulated fluorometry

Regular Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11120-008-9300-7

Cite this article as:
Ritchie, R.J. Photosynth Res (2008) 96: 201. doi:10.1007/s11120-008-9300-7


A blue diode PAM (Pulse Amplitude Modulation) fluorometer was used to measure rapid Photosynthesis (P) versus Irradiance (E) curves (P vs. E curves) in Synechococcus (classical cyanobacteria), Prochlorothrix (prochlorophyta), Chlorella (chlorophyta), Rhodomonas (cryptophyta), Phaeodactylum (bacillariophyta) Acaryochloris (Chl d/a cyanobacteria) and Subterranean Clover (Trifolium subterraneum, Papilionaceae, Angiospermae). Effective quantum yield (ΦPSII) versus irradiance curves could be described by a simple exponential decay function (ΦPSII = ΦPSII, maxe−kE) although Log/Log transformation was sometimes found to be necessary to obtain the best fits. Photosynthesis was measured as relative Electron Transport Rate (rETR) standardised on a chlorophyll basis. P versus E curves were fitted to the waiting-in-line function (an equation of the form P = Pmax · k · E · e−kE) allowing half-saturating and optimal irradiances (Eoptimum) to be estimated. The second differential of the equation shows that at twice optimal light intensities, there is a point of inflection in the P versus E curve. Photosynthesis is inhibited 26.4% at this point of inflection. The waiting-in-line model was found to be a very good descriptor of photosynthetic light saturation curves and superior to hyperbolic functions with an asymptotic saturation point (Michaelis–Menten, exponential saturation and hyperbolic tangent). The exponential constants (k) of the ΦPSII versus E and P versus E curves should be equal because rETR is directly proportional to ΦPSII × E. The conventionally calculated Non-Photochemical Quenching (NPQ) in Synechococcus was not significantly different to zero but NPQ versus E curves for the other algae could be fitted to an exponential saturation model. The kinetics of NPQ does not appear to be related to the kinetics of ΦPSII or rETR.


AcaryochlorisChlorellaSubterranean cloverPhaeodactylumProchlorothrixRhodomonasSynechococcusTrifolium subterraneumOxyphotobacteriaPhotosynthesisPAM fluorometryModulated fluorometryEffective quantum yieldElectron transport rateNon-photochemical quenchingLight saturation curvesP versus EPE



Irradiance (mol m−2 s−1) PAR


Effective quantum yield (measured using standard settings)


Relative electron transport rate (measured using standard settings)


Non-photochemical quenching

Supplementary material

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences A-08The University of SydneySydneyAustralia