Photoacclimation was studied in tobacco leaves (Nicotiana tabacum cv Xanthi) infected with two strains of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and grown under different light and nitrogen nutrition regimes. Photosynthetic acclimation measured by the quantum yield and the maximum rate in saturating light of CO2-saturated photosynthesis was impaired to a greater extent in tobacco leaves infected with TMV strain PV230 than in those infected with TMV strain PV42. Infection with TMV strain PV230 severely impaired photosynthetic acclimation at high light/low nitrogen and during transfer from low to high light. Expanding leaves showing chloroticmosaic symptoms had greatly reduced capacity to acclimate to high light compared with controls and with developed leaves without visible symptoms. We conclude that the failure of expanding leaves to acclimate was largely due to the destruction of chloroplasts in yellow areas of the tissue, accompanied by severe reduction in ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase levels, and corresponding reduction in photosynthesis on a leaf-area basis. When corrected for areas of healthy green tissue, photoacclimation of infected leaves was the same as that of controls. Visible symptom development was greatest in high light/low nitrogen treatments. In developed leaves without visible symptoms, virus accumulation, which was as extensive as in expanding leaves, accelerated senescence and impaired photoacclimation during transfer from low light to high light. Generally, infection with TMV strain PV42 did not impair photosynthetic acclimation and even enhanced it in some treatments, even though virus accumulated to the same concentration as in PV230-infected leaves. These data show that TMV does not simply impair photoacclimation in tobacco by competing with chloroplasts for leaf nitrogen reserves. Rather, specific properties of severe strains, such as PV230, which lead to visible symptom development and patchy loss of photosynthetic activity in expanding leaves as well as general acceleration of chloroplast senescence in developed leaves, contribute to impaired photoacclimation, which is generally exacerbated by low nitrogen nutrition.