The major light-harvesting chlorophyll a/b protein (LHCIIb) of the plant photosynthetic apparatus is able to self-organise in vitro. When the recombinant apoprotein, Lhcb1, is solubilised in the denaturing detergent sodium (or lithium) dodecylsulfate (SDS or LDS) and then mixed with chlorophylls and carotenoids under renaturing conditions, structurally authentic LHCIIb forms. Assembly of functional LHCIIb, as indicated by the establishment of energy transfer between complex-bound chlorophyll molecules, occurs in two apparent kinetic steps with time constants of 10 to 30 seconds and 50 to 300 seconds, depending on the reaction conditions. Here, we use circular dichroism (CD) in the far-UV range to monitor the folding of the LHCIIb apoprotein as it is complexed with pigments. The alpha-helix content in the protein's secondary structure increases in two apparent kinetic steps with time constants similar to those observed for the establishment of chlorophyll energy transfer. When the carotenoid concentration in the reaction mixture is reduced, the time constants of alpha-helix formation increase, as do those for the appearance of chlorophyll energy transfer. This indicates that both processes, pigment assembly and secondary structure formation, are tightly coupled. A substantial amount of alpha-helix is present in dodecylsulfate-solubilised LHCIIb apoprotein and appears to be distributed among various protein domains.