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The Kok effect in Vicia faba cannot be explained solely by changes in chloroplastic CO2 concentration.

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The Kok effect - an abrupt decline in quantum yield (QY) of net CO2 assimilation at low photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) - is widely used to estimate respiration in the light (R), which assumes the effect is caused by light suppression of R. A recent report suggested much of the Kok effect can be explained by declining chloroplastic CO2 concentration (cc ) at low PPFD. Several predictions arise from the hypothesis that the Kok effect is caused by declining cc , and we tested these predictions in Vicia faba. We measured CO2 exchange at low PPFD, in 2% and 21% oxygen, in developing and mature leaves, which differed greatly in R in darkness. Our results contradicted each of the predictions based on the cc effect: QY exceeded the theoretical maximum value for photosynthetic CO2 uptake; QY was larger in 21% than 2% oxygen; and the change in QY at the Kok effect breakpoint was unaffected by oxygen. Our results strongly suggest the Kok effect arises largely from a progressive decline in R with PPFD that includes both oxygen-sensitive and -insensitive components. We suggest an improved Kok method that accounts for high cc at low PPFD.

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