Mature pea (Pisum sativum L., cv. Meteor) leaves were exposed to two levels of UV-B radiation, with and without supplementary UV-C radiation, during 15 h photoperiods. Simultaneous measurements of CO2 assimilation and modulated chlorophyll fluorescence parameters demonstrated that irradiation with UV-B resulted in decreases in CO2 assimilation that are not accompanied by decreases in the maximum quantum efficiency of photosystem II (PSII) primary photochemistry. Increased exposure to UV-B resulted in a further loss of CO2 assimilation and decreases in the maximum quantum efficiency of PSII primary photochemistry, which were accompanied by a loss of the capacity of thylakoids isolated from the leaves to bind atrazine, thus demonstrating that photodamage to PSII reaction centres had occurred. Addition of UV-C to the UV-B treatments increased markedly the rate of inhibition of photosynthesis, but the relationships between CO2 assimilation and PSII characteristics remained the same, indicating that UV-B and UV-C inhibit leaf photosynthesis by a similar mechanism. It is concluded that PSII is not the primary target site involved in the onset of the inhibition of photosynthesis in pea leaves induced by irradiation with UV-B.
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