Heterogeneity of plant mitochondrial responses underpinning respiratory acclimation to the cold in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves


Owen K. Atkin. Fax: +44-1904-328505; e-mail: oka1@york.ac.uk


In this study, we investigated whether changes in mitochondrial abundance, ultrastructure and activity are involved in the respiratory cold acclimation response in leaves of the cold-hardy plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Confocal microscopy [using plants with green fluorescence protein (GFP) targeted to the mitochondria] and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were used to visualize changes in mitochondrial morphology, abundance and ultrastructure. Measurements of respiratory flux in isolated mitochondria and intact leaf tissue were also made. Warm-grown (WG, 25/20 °C day/night), 3-week cold-treated (CT) and cold-developed (CD) leaves were sampled. Although CT leaves exhibited some evidence of acclimation (as evidenced by higher rates of respiration at moderate measurement temperatures), it was only the CD leaves that were able to re-establish respiratory flux within the cold. Associated with the recovery of respiratory flux in the CD leaves were: (1) an increase in the total volume of mitochondria per unit volume of tissue in epidermal cells; (2) an increase in the ratio of cristae to matrix within mesophyll cell mitochondria; and (3) an increase in the capacity of the energy-producing cytochrome pathway in mitochondria isolated from whole leaf homogenates. Regardless of growth temperature, we found that contrasting cell types exhibited distinct differences in mitochondrial ultrastructure, morphology and abundance. Collectively, our data demonstrated the diversity and tissue-specific nature of mitochondrial responses that underpin respiratory acclimation to the cold, and revealed the heterogeneity of mitochondrial structure and abundance that exists within leaves.