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Plant Physiol. 2007 Sep;145(1):49-61. Epub 2007 Jul 27.

Changes in respiratory mitochondrial machinery and cytochrome and alternative pathway activities in response to energy demand underlie the acclimation of respiration to elevated CO2 in the invasive Opuntia ficus-indica.

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Unitat de Fisiologia Vegetal, Departament de Biologia Vegetal, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain 08028.


Studies on long-term effects of plants grown at elevated CO(2) are scarce and mechanisms of such responses are largely unknown. To gain mechanistic understanding on respiratory acclimation to elevated CO(2), the Crassulacean acid metabolism Mediterranean invasive Opuntia ficus-indica Miller was grown at various CO(2) concentrations. Respiration rates, maximum activity of cytochrome c oxidase, and active mitochondrial number consistently decreased in plants grown at elevated CO(2) during the 9 months of the study when compared to ambient plants. Plant growth at elevated CO(2) also reduced cytochrome pathway activity, but increased the activity of the alternative pathway. Despite all these effects seen in plants grown at high CO(2), the specific oxygen uptake rate per unit of active mitochondria was the same for plants grown at ambient and elevated CO(2). Although decreases in photorespiration activity have been pointed out as a factor contributing to the long-term acclimation of plant respiration to growth at elevated CO(2), the homeostatic maintenance of specific respiratory rate per unit of mitochondria in response to high CO(2) suggests that photorespiratory activity may play a small role on the long-term acclimation of respiration to elevated CO(2). However, despite growth enhancement and as a result of the inhibition in cytochrome pathway activity by elevated CO(2), total mitochondrial ATP production was decreased by plant growth at elevated CO(2) when compared to ambient-grown plants. Because plant growth at elevated CO(2) increased biomass but reduced respiratory machinery, activity, and ATP yields while maintaining O(2) consumption rates per unit of mitochondria, we suggest that acclimation to elevated CO(2) results from physiological adjustment of respiration to tissue ATP demand, which may not be entirely driven by nitrogen metabolism as previously suggested.

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