Effects of irradiance on photosynthetic characteristics were examined in senescent leaves of rice (Oryza sativa L.). Two irradiance treatments (100 and 20% natural sunlight) were imposed after the full expansion of the 13th leaf through senescence. The photosynthetic rate was measured as a function of intercellular CO2 pressure with a gas-exchange system. The amounts of cytochrome f, coupling factor 1, ribulose-1, 5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco), and chlorophyll were determined. The coupling factor 1 and cytochrome f contents decreased rapidly during senescence, and their rates of decrease were much faster from the 20% sunlight treatment than from the full sunlight treatment. These changes were well correlated with those in the photosynthetic rate at CO2 pressure = 600 microbars, but not with those under the ambient air condition (350 microbars CO2) and 200 microbars CO2. This suggested that the amounts of coupling factor 1 and cytochrome f from the full sunlight treatment cannot be limiting factors for the photosynthetic rate at ambient air conditions. The Rubisco content also decreased during senescence, but its decrease from the 20% sunlight treatment was appreciably retarded. However, this difference was not reflected in the photosynthetic rates at the ambient and 200 microbars CO2. This implied that in vivo Rubisco activity may be regulated in the senescent leaves from the 20% sunlight treatment. The chlorophyll content decreased most slowly. In the 20% sunlight treatment, it remained apparently constant with a decline in chlorophyll a/b ratio. These photosynthetic characteristics of the senescent rice leaves under low irradiance were discussed in relation to acclimation of shade plants.