Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
EVOLUTIONARY REVIEW

Alternative oxidase: an inter-kingdom perspective on the function and regulation of this broadly distributed ‘cyanide-resistant’ terminal oxidase

Allison E. McDonald
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, The University of Western Ontario, Biological and Geological Sciences Building, London, Ontario N6A 5B7, Canada. Email: amcdon27@uwo.ca

Functional Plant Biology 35(7) 535-552 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP08025
Submitted: 9 February 2008  Accepted: 11 July 2008   Published: 21 August 2008

Abstract

Alternative oxidase (AOX) is a terminal quinol oxidase located in the respiratory electron transport chain that catalyses the oxidation of quinol and the reduction of oxygen to water. However, unlike the cytochrome c oxidase respiratory pathway, the AOX pathway moves fewer protons across the inner mitochondrial membrane to generate a proton motive force that can be used to synthesise ATP. The energy passed to AOX is dissipated as heat. This appears to be very wasteful from an energetic perspective and it is likely that AOX fulfils some physiological function(s) that makes up for its apparent energetic shortcomings. An examination of the known taxonomic distribution of AOX and the specific organisms in which AOX has been studied has been used to explore themes pertaining to AOX function and regulation. A comparative approach was used to examine AOX function as it relates to the biochemical function of the enzyme as a quinol oxidase and associated topics, such as enzyme structure, catalysis and transcriptional expression and post-translational regulation. Hypotheses that have been put forward about the physiological function(s) of AOX were explored in light of some recent discoveries made with regard to species that contain AOX. Fruitful areas of research for the AOX community in the future have been highlighted.

Additional keywords: electron transport chain, endosymbiosis, mitochondrial respiration, reactive oxygen species, stress response, sulfide.


Acknowledgements

Research funding support by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Government of Ontario is gratefully acknowledged. I thank Dr Greg Vanlerberghe, Dr Norm Hüner and Dr Jim Staples for helpful discussions and constructive comments on drafts of the manuscript. I thank Dr Jennifer Watling and Dr Sharon Robinson for their early encouragement and support of this work. I thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments.


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