Elucidating the molecular details of qE (energy quenching) induction in higher plants has proven to be a major challenge. Identification of qE mutants has provided initial information on functional elements involved in the qE mechanism; furthermore, investigations on isolated pigment–protein complexes and analysis in vivo and in vitro by sophisticated spectroscopic methods have been used for the elucidation of mechanisms involved. The aim of the present review is to summarize the current knowledge of the phenotype of npq (non-photochemical quenching)-knockout mutants, the role of gene products involved in the qE process and compare the molecular models proposed for this process.

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