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New Phytol. 2008;177(1):90-101. Epub 2007 Nov 6.

Mitochondrial morphology transition is an early indicator of subsequent cell death in Arabidopsis.

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Sir Harold Mitchell Building, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9TH, UK.


Mitochondrial morphology and dynamics were investigated during the onset of cell death in Arabidopsis thaliana. Cell death was induced by either chemical (reactive oxygen species (ROS)) or physical (heat) shock. Changes in mitochondrial morphology in leaf tissue, or isolated protoplasts, each expressing mitochondrial-targeted green fluorescent protein (GFP), were observed by epifluorescence microscopy, and quantified. Chemical induction of ROS production, or a mild heat shock, caused a rapid and consistent change in mitochondrial morphology (termed the mitochondrial morphology transition) that preceded cell death. Treatment of protoplasts with a cell-permeable superoxide dismutase analogue, TEMPOL, blocked this morphology change. Incubation of protoplasts in micromolar concentrations of the calcium channel-blocker lanthanum chloride, or the permeability transition pore inhibitor cyclosporin A, prevented both the mitochondrial morphology transition and subsequent cell death. It is concluded that the observed mitochondrial morphology transition is an early and specific indicator of cell death and is a necessary component of the cell death process.

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