Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Sixty-Three Years Since Kautsky: Chlorophyll a Fluorescence

e Govindje

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 22(2) 131 - 160
Published: 1995


In 1931, using their eyes as instruments, H . Kautsky and A . Hirsch related the time course of chlorophyll a fluorescence with photosynthesis in a less-than-one-page article in Naturwissenschaften (see Kautsky's photograph). Chlorophyll a fluorescence is now being used by hundreds of investigators as a probe for various aspects of photosynthesis-from excitation energy transfer in picosecond time scale to CO2 fixation in minutes . It is not only a much used, but also a much abused, tool. It is used because of it being a non-invasive, rapid and a highly sensitive probe, and misused because it is sometimes not recognised that it is affected by various photosynthetic and other reactions. I submit that, like any other technique, if it is used with care and with due regard for its time dependence and competing parameters. it will remain as the one-most powerful tool for probing excitation energy transfer, primary photochemistry, electron flow on both the donor and the acceptor side of photosystem II (PSII) of oxygenic PSII. Further, it is very useful in the quick assay of PSII mutations, and down- regulation and other adjustments to stress (excess light, heat, heavy metal, nutrients and certain herbicides). In this paper, I will present my viewpoint, not a review, on the conceptual and experimental developments in this field. Whenever appropriate, and without any shame and humility, I will include some of my involvement in the excitement surrounding this field. I hope that this paper will serve as a starting point for further discussion of not only the history, but the practical use of chlorophyll a fluorescence as an intrinsic probe of stresses to plants, as well as individual reactions of oxygenic photosynthesis, when combined with other parallel measurements.

© CSIRO 1995

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