The effect of previous light conditions on metabolite and transcript levels was investigated in leaves of Arabidopsis thaliana during illumination and after light-enhanced dark respiration (LEDR), when dark respiration was measured. • Primary carbon metabolites and the expression of light-responsive respiratory genes were determined in A. thaliana leaves before and after 30 min of darkness following different light conditions. In addition, metabolite levels were determined in the middle of the night and the in vivo activities of cytochrome and alternative respiratory pathways were determined by oxygen isotope fractionation. • A large number of metabolites were increased in leaves of plants growing in or transiently exposed to higher light intensities. Transcript levels of respiratory genes were also increased after high light treatment. For the majority of the light-induced metabolites and transcripts, the levels were maintained after 30 min of darkness, where higher and persistent respiratory activities were also observed. The levels of many metabolites were lower at night than after 30 min of darkness imposed in the day, but respiratory activities remained similar. • The results obtained suggest that 'dark' respiration measurements, as usually performed, are probably made under conditions in which the overall status of metabolites is strongly influenced by the previous light conditions.