We have investigated the influence of stress conditions such as incubation at 4°C and incubation in hyperoxygen atmosphere, on plant tissues. The ubiquinone (Q) content and respiratory activity of purified mitochondria was studied. The rate of respiration of mitochondria isolated from cold-treated green bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L) exceeds that of controls, but this is not so for mitochondria isolated from cold-treated cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L). Treatment with high oxygen does not alter respiration rates of cauliflower mitochondria. Analysis of kinetic data relating oxygen uptake with Q reduction in mitochondria isolated from tissue incubated at 4°C (bell peppers and cauliflowers) and at high oxygen levels (cauliflowers) reveals an increase in the total amount of Q and in the percentage of inoxidizable QH2. The effects are not invariably accompanied by an induction of the alternative oxidase (AOX). In those mitochondria where the AOX is induced (cold-treated bell pepper and cauliflower treated with high oxygen) superoxide production is lower than in the control. The role of reduced Q accumulation and AOX induction in the defense against oxidative damage is discussed.

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