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Trends Plant Sci. 1999 Aug;4(8):320-325.

Ethanolic fermentation: new functions for an old pathway.

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Institute of Plant Physiology, University of Berne, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Berne, Switzerland.


Ethanolic fermentation is an ancient metabolic pathway. In plants, it is a major route of ATP production under anaerobic conditions. In addition, recent developments suggest that the pathway has important functions in the presence of oxygen. Both of the enzymes required for the production of acetaldehyde and ethanol, pyruvate decarboxylase and alcohol dehydrogenase, are highly abundant in pollen, resulting in fermentation in fully oxygenated cells. Acetaldehyde toxicity is an inevitable side effect of aerobic fermentation. Could acetaldehyde be the elusive pollen factor that contributes to male sterility in cmsT maize? The versatility of this ancient pathway is also illustrated by the induction of aerobic fermentation by environmental stress and activation of a defense response by overexpression of pyruvate decarboxylase.

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