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Ann Bot. 2009 Jan;103(2):259-68. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcn100. Epub 2008 Jun 26.

Plant mitochondrial function during anaerobiosis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, NL, Canada, A1B 3X9.



Under hypoxic conditions, plant mitochondria preserve the capacity to oxidize external NADH, NADPH and tricarboxylic acid cycle substrates. Nitrite serves as an alternative electron acceptor at the level of cytochrome oxidase, with possibly complex III and the alternative oxidase also being involved. Nitric oxide is a significant product of the reaction, which has a high affinity for cytochrome c oxidase, inhibiting it. The excess NO is scavenged by hypoxically induced class 1 haemoglobin in the reaction involving ascorbate.


By using nitrite, mitochondria retain a limited capacity for ATP synthesis. NADH, produced from glycolysis during anaerobiosis and oxidized in the mitochondrial electron transport chain, should shift the composition of metabolites formed during anaerobiosis with increased conversion of pyruvate to alanine and greater involvement of other transamination reactions, such as those involving gamma-aminobutyric acid formation.


Anaerobic mitochondrial metabolism may have a more significant role than previously thought in alleviating the effects of anoxia on plant cells. There is a need to re-examine mitochondrial carbon and nitrogen metabolism under anoxia to establish the extent of this involvement.

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