The effects of reductions in growth temperature on the development of thylakoids of maize (Zea mays var LG11) leaves are examined. Thylakoids isolated from mesophyll cells of leaves grown at 17° and 14°C, compared with 25°C, exhibited a decreased accumulation of many polypeptides, which was accompanied by a loss of activity of photosystems (PS) I and II. Probing the polypeptide profiles with a range of antibodies specific for thylakoid proteins demonstrated that a number of polypeptides encoded by the chloroplast genome failed to accumulate at low temperatures. Although thylakoid protein synthesis was reduced severely at 14°C compared with 25°C, major synthesis of both chloroplast and nuclear encoded polypeptides was detected. It is suggested that the lack of accumulation of some thylakoid proteins at low temperatures may be due to an inability to stabilize the proteins in the membranes. A number of thylakoid polypeptides were found to appear as the growth temperature was decreased. Analyses of pigments and polypeptides demonstrated that decreases in the photosystem reaction center core complexes occur relative to the light harvesting complex associated with PS II at reduced growth temperatures. Differential effects on the development of PSI and PSII were also observed, with PSII activity being preferentially reduced. Reductions in PSII content and activity occurred in parallel with decreases in the quantum yield and light-saturated rate of CO2 assimilation. Fractionation of thylakoid pigment-protein complexes showed that the ratio of monomeric:oligomeric form of the light harvesting complex associated with PSII increased at low growth temperature, which is consistent with a chill-induced modification of thylakoid organization. Many, but not all, of the characteristic changes in thylakoid protein metabolism, which were observed when leaves were grown at low temperatures in controlled environments, were identified in leaves of a field maize crop during the early growing season when low temperatures were experienced by the crop. Chill-induced perturbations of thylakoid development can occur in the field in temperate regions and may have implications for the photosynthetic productivity of the crop.