, Volume 237, Issue 3, pp 837–847 | Cite as

A mechanistic model for the light response of photosynthetic electron transport rate based on light harvesting properties of photosynthetic pigment molecules

  • Zi-Piao YeEmail author
  • Piotr Robakowski
  • David J. Suggett
Original Article


Models describing the light response of photosynthetic electron transport rate (ETR) are routinely used to determine how light absorption influences energy, reducing power and yields of primary productivity; however, no single model is currently able to provide insight into the fundamental processes that implicitly govern the variability of light absorption. Here we present development and application of a new mechanistic model of ETR for photosystem II based on the light harvesting (absorption and transfer to the core ‘reaction centres’) characteristics of photosynthetic pigment molecules. Within this model a series of equations are used to describe novel biophysical and biochemical characteristics of photosynthetic pigment molecules and in turn light harvesting; specifically, the eigen-absorption cross-section and the minimum average lifetime of photosynthetic pigment molecules in the excited state, which describe the ability of light absorption of photosynthetic pigment molecules and retention time of excitons in the excited state but are difficult to be measured directly. We applied this model to a series of previously collected fluorescence data and demonstrated that our model described well the light response curves of ETR, regardless of whether dynamic down-regulation of PSII occurs, for a range of photosynthetic organisms (Abies alba, Picea abies, Pinus mugo and Emiliania huxleyi). Inherent estimated parameters (e.g. maximum ETR and the saturation irradiance) by our model are in very close agreement with the measured data. Overall, our mechanistic model potentially provides novel insights into the regulation of ETR by light harvesting properties as well as dynamical down-regulation of PSII.


Average lifetime Dynamic down-regulation Electron transport rate Light absorption Light response Photosynthetic pigment 



Total optical absorption coefficient of photosynthetic pigment molecules for uniform case of optical absorption


Total optical absorption coefficient of photosynthetic pigment molecules for heterogeneous case of optical absorption


Einstein’s coefficient for spontaneous emission


Electron transport rate


Photosynthetic capacity at saturation light


Maximum photosynthetic electron transport rate


A scaling factor defined as the maximum potential relative ETR


Degeneration of energy level of photosynthetic pigment molecules in the ground state i


Degeneration of energy level of photosynthetic pigment molecules in the excited state k


Light intensity


Photosynthetic pigment molecules in the ground state i per unit volume


Photosynthetic pigment molecules in the excited state k per unit volume


Total photosynthetic pigment molecules per unit volume


Total photosynthetic pigment molecules in the ground state i


Total photosynthetic pigment molecules in the excited state k


Total photosynthetic pigment molecules


Saturation light intensity corresponding to ETRmax


Non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence


Photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence


Relaxation rate by spontaneous emission from excited state k to ground state i


Rate of pigment molecules from the excited state k to the ground state i due to primary charge separation


Rate of pigment molecules from the excited state k to the ground state i due to non-radiative heat dissipation


Initial slope of light response curve of ETR


Fraction of light absorbed by PSII


Leaf absorptance


Probability of photochemistry


Probability of non-radiative heat dissipation


Probability of fluorescence


Rate of state transit from ground state i to excited state k due to light illumination


Rate of state transit from excited state k to ground state i due to light illumination


Eigen-absorption cross-section of photosynthetic pigment molecule from ground state i to excited state k due to light illumination


Eigen-absorption cross-section of photosynthetic pigment molecule from excited state k to ground state i due to light illumination


Effective optical absorption cross-section of photosynthetic pigment molecule from ground state i to excited state k due to light illumination


Efficiency of exciton transfer via PSII reaction centre for charge separation of P680


Average lifetime of the photosynthetic pigment molecules in the excited state


Minimum average lifetime of photosynthetic pigment molecules in the excited state



We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of two anonymous reviewers whose comments contributed to an improved version of the MS. This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 30960031), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangxi Province (Grant No. 2009GZN0076) and the Key Discipline of Atomic and Molecular Physics in Jiangxi Province (2011-1015).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zi-Piao Ye
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Piotr Robakowski
    • 3
  • David J. Suggett
    • 4
  1. 1.Research Center for Jinggangshan Eco-Environmental Sciences, Jinggangshan UniversityJi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Maths and Physics, Jinggangshan UniversityJi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of ForestryPoznan University of Life SciencesPoznanPoland
  4. 4.School of Biological Sciences, University of EssexColchesterUK

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