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Plant Cell Physiol. 2006 Nov;47(11):1509-19. Epub 2006 Sep 30.

Changes in plant mitochondrial electron transport alter cellular levels of reactive oxygen species and susceptibility to cell death signaling molecules.

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Department of Life Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, ON, Canada M1C1A4.


Transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) lacking mitochondrial alternative oxidase (AOX) have been compared with wild-type (Wt) tobacco using two different systems, either suspension cell cultures or leaves. In both systems, a lack of AOX was accompanied by an increase in some anti-oxidant defenses, consistent with the hypothesis that a lack of AOX increases the mitochondrial generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In most cases, this increase in anti-oxidant defenses could more than offset the presumed increased rate of ROS generation, resulting paradoxically in a lower steady-state level of ROS than was found in Wt leaves or suspension cells. We also found that the amount of cell death induced by salicylic acid or nitric oxide correlated strongly with the level of ROS (irrespective of the level of AOX), while death induced by azide was dependent upon the presence or absence of AOX. These results suggest that susceptibility to cell death by signaling molecules (salicylic acid and nitric oxide) is dependent upon the steady-state cellular level of ROS and that AOX levels clearly contribute to this steady state, perhaps by influencing the rate of mitochondrial-generated ROS and hence the cellular level of anti-oxidant defenses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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