【摘要】：Nitrogen(N) is a critical element for plant growth and productivity that influences photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence. We investigated the effect of low-N stress on leaf photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence characteristics of maize cultivars with difference in tolerance to low N levels. The low-N tolerant cultivar ZH311 and low-N sensitive cultivar XY508 were used as the test materials. A field experiment(with three N levels: N0, 0 kg ha–1; N1, 150 kg ha–1; N2, 300 kg ha–1) in Jiyanyang, Sichuan Province, China, and a hydroponic experiment(with two N levels: CK, 4 mmol L–1; LN, 0.04 mmol L–1) in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China were conducted. Low-N stress significantly decreased chlorophyll content and rapid light response curves of the maximum fluorescence under light(Fm′), fluorescence instable state(Fs), non-photochemical quenching(qN), the maximum efficiency of PSII photochemistry under dark-adaption(Fv/Fm), potential activity of PSII(Fv/Fo), and actual photochemical efficiency of PSII(ΦPSII) of leaves. Further, it increased the chlorophyll(Chl) a/Chl b values and so on. The light compensation point of ZH311 decreased, while that of XY508 increased. The degree of variation of these indices in low-N tolerant cultivars was lower than that in low-N sensitive cultivars, especially at the seedling stage. Maize could increase Chl a/Chl b, apparent quantum yield and light saturation point to adapt to N stress. Compared to low-N sensitive cultivars, low-N tolerant cultivars maintained a higher net photosynthetic rate and electron transport rate to maintain stronger PSII activity, which further promoted the ability to harvest and transfer light. This might be a photosynthetic mechanism by which low-N tolerant cultivar adapt to low-N stress.