Previously, we showed that ascorbate (Asc), by donating electrons to photosystem II (PSII), supports a sustained electron transport activity in leaves in which the oxygen-evolving complexes were inactivated with a heat pulse (49°C, 40 s). Here, by using wild-type, Asc-overproducing, and -deficient Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) mutants (miox4 and vtc2-3, respectively), we investigated the physiological role of Asc as PSII electron donor in heat-stressed leaves (40°C, 15 min), lacking active oxygen-evolving complexes. Chlorophyll-a fluorescence transients show that in leaves excited with trains of saturating single-turnover flashes spaced 200 ms apart, allowing continual electron donation from Asc to PSII, the reaction centers remained functional even after thousands of turnovers. Higher flash frequencies or continuous illumination (300 μmol photons m−2 s−1) gradually inactivated them, a process that appeared to be initiated by a dramatic deceleration of the electron transfer from TyrZ to P680+, followed by the complete loss of charge separation activity. These processes occurred with half-times of 1.2 and 10 min, 2.8 and 23 min, and 4.1 and 51 min in vtc2-3, the wild type, and miox4, respectively, indicating that the rate of inactivation strongly depended on the Asc content of the leaves. The recovery of PSII activity, following the degradation of PSII proteins (D1, CP43, and PsbO), in moderate light (100 μmol photons m−2 s−1, comparable to growth light), was also retarded in the Asc-deficient mutant. These data show that high Asc content of leaves contributes significantly to the ability of plants to withstand heat-stress conditions
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