The mitochondrial respiratory chain in plants, some protists and many fungi consists of the ATP-coupling cyanide-sensitive cytochrome pathway and the cyanide-resistant alternative respiratory pathway. The alternative pathway is mediated by alternative oxidase (AOX). Although AOX has been proposed to play essential roles in nutrient stress tolerance of plants and protists, the effects of sulfur (S) deprivation, on AOX are largely unknown. The unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii reacts to S limitation conditions with the induced expression of many genes. In this work, we demonstrated that exposure of C. reinhardtii to S deprivation results in the up-regulation of AOX1 expression and an increased AOX1 protein. Furthermore, S-deprived C. reinhardtii cells display the enhanced AOX1 capacity. Moreover, nitrate assimilation regulatory protein (NIT2) is involved in the control of the AOX1 gene expression in the absence of S. Together, the results clearly indicate that AOX1 relates to S limitation stress responses and is regulated in a NIT2-dependent manner, probably together with yet-unknown regulatory factor(s).
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