Estimation of photosynthesis by Chl fluorescence measurement of cyanobacteria is always problematic due to the interference from respiratory electron transfer and from phycocyanin fluorescence. The interference from respiratory electron transfer could be avoided by the use of DCMU or background illumination by blue light, which oxidizes the plastoquinone pool that tends to be reduced by respiration. On the other hand, the precise estimation of photosynthesis in cells with a different phycobilisome content by Chl fluorescence measurement is difficult. By subtracting the basal fluorescence due to the phycobilisome and PSI, it becomes possible to estimate the precise maximum quantum yield of PSII in cyanobacteria. Estimated basal fluorescence accounted for 60% of the minimum fluorescence, resulting in a large difference between the 'apparent' yield and 'true' yield under high phycocyanin conditions. The calculated value of the 'true' maximum quantum yield of PSII was around 0.8, which was similar to the value observed in land plants. The results suggest that the cause of the apparent low yield reported in cyanobacteria is mainly ascribed to the interference from phycocyanin fluorescence. We also found that the 'true' maximum quantum yield of PSII decreased under nitrogen-deficient conditions, suggesting the impairment of the PSII reaction center, while the 'apparent' maximum quantum yield showed a marginal change under the same conditions. Due to the high contribution of phycocyanin fluorescence in cyanobacteria, it is essential to eliminate the influence of the change in phycocyanin content on Chl fluorescence measurement and to evaluate the 'true' photosynthetic condition.
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