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The role of ascorbate (AsA) recycling via dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) in the tolerance of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to photo-oxidative stress was examined. The activity of DHAR and the abundance of the CrDHAR1 (Cre10.g456750) transcript increased after moderate light (ML; 750 µmol m–2 s–1) or high light (HL; 1,800 µmol m–2 s–1) illumination, accompanied by dehydroascorbate (DHA) accumulation, decreased AsA redox state, photo-inhibition, lipid peroxidation, H2O2 overaccumulation, growth inhibition and cell death. It suggests that DHAR and AsA recycling is limiting under high-intensity light stress. The CrDHAR1 gene was cloned and its recombinant CrDHAR1 protein was a monomer (25 kDa) detected by Western blot that exhibits an enzymatic activity of 965 µmol min–1 mg–1 protein. CrDHAR1 was overexpressed driven by a HSP70A:RBCS2 fusion promoter or down-regulated by artificial microRNA (amiRNA) to examine whether DHAR-mediated AsA recycling is critical for the tolerance of C. reinahartii cells to photo-oxidative stress. The overexpression of CrDHAR1 increased DHAR protein abundance and enzyme activity, AsA pool size, AsA:DHA ratio and the tolerance to ML-, HL-, methyl viologen- or H2O2-induced oxidative stress. The CrDHAR1-knockdown amiRNA lines that have lower DHAR expression and AsA recycling ability were sensitive to high-intensity illumination and oxidative stress. The glutathione pool size, glutathione:oxidized glutathione ratio and glutathione reductase and ascorbate peroxidase activities were increased in CrDHAR1-overexpressing cells and showed a further increase after high-intensity illumination but decreased in wild-type cells after light stress. The present results suggest that increasing AsA regeneration via enhanced DHAR activity modulates the ascorbate–glutathione cycle activity in C. reinhardtii against photo-oxidative stress.