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Plant Physiol. 1996 Jun;111(2):589-595.

Signals Regulating the Expression of the Nuclear Gene Encoding Alternative Oxidase of Plant Mitochondria.

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  • 1Department of Botany and Division of Life Sciences, University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada M1C 1A4 (G.C.V.).


Suspension cells of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L. cv Bright Yellow) were used to investigate signals regulating the expression of the nuclear gene Aox1 encoding the mitochondrial alternative oxidase (AOX) protein responsible for cyanide-resistant respiration in plants. We found that an increase in the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate citrate (either after its exogenous supply to cells or after inhibition of aconitase by monofluoroacetate) caused a rapid and dramatic increase in the steady-state level of Aox1 mRNA and AOX protein. This led to a large increase in the capacity for AOX respiration, defined as the amount of salicylhydroxamic acid-sensitive O2 uptake by cells in the presence of potassium cyanide. The results indicate that citrate may be an important signal metabolite regulating Aox1 gene expression. A number of other treatments were also identified that rapidly induced the level of Aox1 mRNA and AOX capacity. These included short-term incubation of cells with 10 mM acetate, 2 [mu]M antimycin A, 5 mM H2O2, or 1 mM cysteine. For some of these treatments, induction of AOX occurred without an increase in cellular citrate level, indicating that other signals (possibly related to oxidative stress conditions) are also important in regulating Aox1 gene expression. The signals influencing Aox1 gene expression are discussed with regard to the potential function(s) of AOX to modulate tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolism and/or to prevent the generation of active oxygen species by the mitochondrial electron transport chain.

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