Measurement of gradients of absorbed light in spinach leaves from chlorophyll fluorescence profiles


Correspondence: Thomas C.Vogelmann. Fax: +1 307 766 2851; e-mail:


Profiles of chlorophyll fluorescence were measured in spinach leaves irradiated with monochromatic light. The characteristics of the profiles within the mesophyll were determined by the optical properties of the leaf tissue and the spectral quality of the actinic light. When leaves were infiltrated with 104M DCMU [3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1, 1-dimethyl-urea] or water, treatments that minimized light scattering, irradiation with 2000 μmol m2 s1 green light produced broad Gaussian-shaped fluorescence profiles that spanned most of the mesophyll. Profiles for chlorophyll fluorescence in the red (680 ± 16 nm) and far red (λ > 710 nm) were similar except that there was elevated red fluorescence near the adaxial leaf surface relative to far red fluorescence. Fluorescence profiles were narrower in non-infiltrated leaf samples where light scattering increased the light gradient. The fluorescence profile was broader when the leaf was irradiated on its adaxial versus abaxial surface due to the contrasting optical properties of the palisade and spongy mesophyll. Irradiation with blue, red and green monochromatic light produced profiles that peaked 50, 100 and 150 μm, respectively, beneath the irradiated surface. These results are consistent with previous measurements of the light gradient in spinach and they agree qualitatively with measurements of carbon fixation under monochromatic blue, red and green light. These results suggest that chlorophyll fluorescence profiles may be used to estimate the distribution of quanta that are absorbed within the leaf for photosynthesis.