The history of photosynthetic thermoluminescence

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A fundamental discovery of photosynthetis research in the 1950s was the detection of thermally stimulated light emission from preilluminated photosynthetic material [Arnold W and Sherwood H (1957) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 43: 105-114]. This phenomenon, called thermoluminescence (TL), is characteristic of a wide range of materials (minerals, semiconductors, inorganic and organic crystals, and complex biological systems), which share the ability of storing radiant energy in thermally stabilized trap states. The original discovery of TL in dried chloroplasts later proved to be a phenomenon common to all photosynthetic organisms: photosynthetic bacteria, cyanobacteria, algae and higher plants, which can be observed in isolated membrane particles, intact chloroplasts and unicellular organisms, and whole leaves. Following the initial observations considerable effort has been devoted to the identification and characterization of photosynthetic TL components. This work has firmly established the participation of various oxidation states of the water-oxidizing complex, the redox-active tyrosines, and the quinone electron acceptors of Photosystem II (PS II) in the generation of photosynthetic glow curves. Since TL characteristics are very sensitive to subtle changes in the redox properties of the involved electron transport components, the TL method has become a powerful tool in probing a wide range of PS II redox reactions and their modifications by environmental stress effects. Here, the main milestones of research in photosynthetic TL are covered until the present day.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-318
Number of pages16
JournalPhotosynthesis research
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 12 2003



  • Andrej Rubin
  • Bernie Strehler
  • Don deVault
  • Felix Litvin
  • Govindjee
  • Gábor Horváth
  • Kazuo Shibata
  • P. V. Sane
  • Photosynthesis
  • Photosystem II
  • Sándor Demeter
  • T.S. Desai
  • Vladimir Shuvalov
  • William Arnold
  • William Rutherford
  • Yorinao Inoue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology

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