The photosystem II core complex is the water:plastoquinone oxidoreductase of oxygenic photosynthesis situated in the thylakoid membrane of cyanobacteria, algae and plants. It catalyzes the light-induced transfer of electrons from water to plastoquinone accompanied by the net transport of protons from the cytoplasm (stroma) to the lumen, the production of molecular oxygen and the release of plastoquinol into the membrane phase. In this review, we outline our present knowledge about the "acceptor side" of the photosystem II core complex covering the reaction center with focus on the primary (Q(A)) and secondary (Q(B)) quinones situated around the non-heme iron with bound (bi)carbonate and a comparison with the reaction center of purple bacteria. Related topics addressed are quinone diffusion channels for plastoquinone/plastoquinol exchange, the newly discovered third quinone Q(C), the relevance of lipids, the interactions of quinones with the still enigmatic cytochrome 6559 and the role of Q(A) in photoinhibition and photoprotection mechanisms. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Photosystem II. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.