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Plant Physiol. 1994 Dec;106(4):1503-1510.

Molecular Genetic Alteration of Plant Respiration (Silencing and Overexpression of Alternative Oxidase in Transgenic Tobacco).

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Michigan State University/Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory and Biochemistry Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824.


The alternative oxidase (AOX) of plant mitochondria is encoded by the nuclear gene Aox1. Sense and antisense DNA constructs of Nicotiana tabacum Aox1 were introduced into tobacco, and transgenic plants with both increased and decreased levels of mitochondrial AOX protein were identified. Suspension cells derived from wild-type and transgenic plants were grown in heterotrophic batch culture. Transgenic cells with increased AOX protein had an increased capacity for cyanide-resistant, salicylhydroxamic acid-sensitive respiration compared to wild-type cells, whereas transgenic cells with decreased AOX protein had a decreased capacity for such respiration. Thus, genetic alteration of the level of AOX protein was sufficient to alter the capacity for electron transport through the alternative pathway. Under our standard growth conditions, "antisense" cells with dramatically reduced levels of AOX protein had growth and respiration rates similar to the wild type. However, whereas wild-type cells were able to grow under conditions that severely suppressed cytochrome pathway activity, antisense cells could not survive this treatment. This suggests that a critical function of AOX may be to support respiration when the cytochrome pathway is impaired. The much higher level of AOX protein in "sense" cells compared to the wild type did not appreciably alter the steady-state partitioning of electrons between the cytochrome path and the alternative pathway in vivo, suggesting that this partitioning may be subject to additional regulatory factors.

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