Four-year-old `Gala'/M.26 trees were grown under low (2.5 mm), medium (12.5 mm), or high (25 mm) N supply with balanced nutrients in sand culture and the cropload was adjusted to 5 fruit/cm2 trunk cross-sectional area at 10 mm king fruit. At about 100 days after bloom, exposed fruit on the south side of the canopy were chosen for monitoring chlorophyll fluorescence and fruit peel samples were taken for measuring xanthophyll cycle pigments, antioxidant enzymes, and metabolites. At noon, the efficiency of excitation transfer (Fv'/Fm') of the sun-exposed peel was higher in the low N treatment than in the medium or high N treatments. Photochemical quenching coefficient did not differ between fruits in different N treatments. The Photosystem II operating efficiency was higher in the peel of low N fruit compared with medium N or high N fruit. However, maximum quantum efficiency (Fv/Fm) of fruit peel after overnight dark adaptation was similar across the N treatments. The xanthophyll cycle pool size expressed on peel area basis was larger in the high N fruit than in the low N fruit. This corresponds well with the thermal dissipation capacity, as indicated by efficiency of excitation transfer. Over 95% of the xanthophyll cycle pool in the sun-exposed side was present in the form of zeaxanthin and antheraxanthin at noon regardless of N treatments. Activities of superoxide dismutase and all the antioxidant enzymes and metabolites in the ascorbate-glutathione cycle were higher in the high N fruit than in low N fruit. The results indicate that apple fruit with a good N status have a higher photoprotective capacity in terms of xanthophyll cycle-dependent thermal dissipation and detoxification of reactive oxygen species compared with low N fruit.