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Plant Physiol. 1999 Jul;120(3):765-72.

The effect of growth and measurement temperature on the activity of the alternative respiratory pathway

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  • 1Developmental Cell and Molecular Biology Group, Botany Department, Duke University, Box 91000, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


A postulated role of the CN-resistant alternative respiratory pathway in plants is the maintenance of mitochondrial electron transport at low temperatures that would otherwise inhibit the main phosphorylating pathway and prevent the formation of toxic reactive oxygen species. This role is supported by the observation that alternative oxidase protein levels often increase when plants are subjected to growth at low temperatures. We used oxygen isotope fractionation to measure the distribution of electrons between the main and alternative pathways in mung bean (Vigna radiata) and soybean (Glycine max) following growth at low temperature. The amount of alternative oxidase protein in mung bean grown at 19 degrees C increased over 2-fold in both hypocotyls and leaves compared with plants grown at 28 degrees C but was unchanged in soybean cotyledons grown at 14 degrees C compared with plants grown at 28 degrees C. When the short-term response of tissue respiration was measured over the temperature range of 35 degrees C to 9 degrees C, decreases in the activities of both main and alternative pathway respiration were observed regardless of the growth temperature, and the relative partitioning of electrons to the alternative pathway generally decreased as the temperature was lowered. However, cold-grown mung bean plants that up-regulated the level of alternative oxidase protein maintained a greater electron partitioning to the alternative oxidase when measured at temperatures below 19 degrees C supporting a role for the alternative pathway in response to low temperatures in mung bean. This response was not observed in soybean cotyledons, in which high levels of alternative pathway activity were seen at both high and low temperatures.

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