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J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2001;15(6):322-30.

Differential sensitivities of plant and animal mitochondria to the herbicide paraquat.

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Departamento de Botânica, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal.


Paraquat herbicide is toxic to animals, including humans, via putative toxicity mechanisms associated to microsomal and mitochondrial redox systems. It is also believed to act in plants by generating highly reactive oxygen free radicals from electrons of photosystem I on exposure to light. Paraquat also acts on non-chlorophyllous plant tissues, where mitochondria are candidate targets, as in animal tissues. Therefore, we compared the interaction of paraquat with the mitochondrial bioenergetics of potato tuber, using rat liver mitochondria as a reference. Paraquat depressed succinate-dependent mitochondrial Delta(psi), with simultaneous stimulation of state 4 O2 consumption. It also induced a slow time-dependent effect for respiration of succinate, exogenous NADH, and N,N,N',N'-tetramethyl-p-phenylenediamine (TMPD)/ascorbate, which was more pronounced in rat than in potato mitochondria. However, with potato tuber mitochondria, the Delta(psi) promoted by complex-I-dependent respiration is insensitive to this effect, indicating a protection against paraquat radical afforded by complex I redox activity, which was just the reverse of to the findings for rat liver mitochondria. The experimental set up with the tetraphenyl phosphonium (TPP+)-electrode also indicated production of the paraquat radical in mitochondria, also suggesting its accessibility to the outside space. The different activities of protective antioxidant agents can contribute to explain the different sensitivities of both kinds of mitochondria. Values of SOD activity and alpha-tocopherol detected in potato mitochondria were significantly higher than in rat mitochondria, which, in turn, revealed higher values of lipid peroxidation induced by paraquat.

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