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ALTERNATIVE OXIDASE: From Gene to Function.

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Department of Botany and Division of Life Science, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario M1C 1A4, Canada, Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory and Biochemistry Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824.


Plants, some fungi, and protists contain a cyanide-resistant, alternative mitochondrial respiratory pathway. This pathway branches at the ubiquinone pool and consists of an alternative oxidase encoded by the nuclear gene Aox1. Alternative pathway respiration is only linked to proton translocation at Complex 1 (NADH dehydrogenase). Alternative oxidase expression is influenced by stress stimuli-cold, oxidative stress, pathogen attack-and by factors constricting electron flow through the cytochrome pathway of respiration. Control is exerted at the levels of gene expression and in response to the availability of carbon and reducing potential. Posttranslational control involves reversible covalent modification of the alternative oxidase and activation by specific carbon metabolites. This dynamic system of coarse and fine control may function to balance upstream respiratory carbon metabolism and downstream electron transport when these coupled processes become imbalanced as a result of changes in the supply of, or demand for, carbon, reducing power, and ATP.

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