Photosystem II (PSII) thermostability and acclimation effects on PSII photochemical efficiency were analyzed in thirty field grown winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes using prompt chlorophyll a fluorescence kinetics before and after dark heat treatment. A gradual increase in temperature caused the appearance of K-bands at 300 μs on the chlorophyll fluorescence induction curve, indicating the impairment of the PSII donor side (even by heat treatment at 38 °C). An increase in basal fluorescence, commonly used as a criterion of PSII thermostability, was observed beyond a temperature threshold of 44 °C. Moreover, an acclimation shift (increase of critical temperature) was observed at the 3.5 °C identified for K-band appearance, but only by 1.1 °C for a steep increase in F0. The single temperature approach with regular weekly observations completed within two months using dark heat treatment at 40 °C demonstrated that the acclimation effect is not gradual, but occurs immediately and is associated with an increase of daily temperature maxima over 30 °C. The acclimated heat treated samples had less effect on the donor side of PSII, the higher fraction of active QA- reducing reaction centers and causing a much lower decrease of connectivity among PSII units compared to non-acclimated samples. In the non-treated plants the reduction of antennae size, increase of PSII connectivity and changes in the acceptor side occurred as a result of heat acclimation. The enhancement of PSII thermostability persisted over several weeks regardless of weather conditions. The genotype comparison identified three groups that differed either in initial PSII thermostability or in acclimation capacity; these groupings were clearly associated with the origin of the genotypes.
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