The long and short term metabolic effects of a shift in root temperature was investigated in Plantago lanceolata L. with special reference to the role of the cyanide resistant alternative pathway in root respiration. After a 10-day period of growth at a 13°C root temperature, a decrease in root as well as shoot growth was observed, compared to control plants grown continuously at 21°C. Apart from an increase in shoot soluble and insoluble sugar level, no changes in metabolism were found, neither in root respiration, shoot photosynthesis, nor in root sugar and plant protein level.
Decreasing the root temperature from 21 to 13°C gave several clear short term changes in metabolism. Within one hour a decrease in cytochrome chain activity of the roots was found together with an increase in activity of the alternative chain. After 24 h a recovery to the initial level of both chains was observed. An increase in root temperature from 13 to 21°C gave an immediate increase in activity of both respiratory chains that was still present 24 h after the switch.
It is concluded that the activity of the alternative respiratory pathway in the root is strongly affected by a sudden temperature change in the root environment. This pathway acts in a way which is described by ‘the energy overflow model'. The presence of the alternative electron transport pathway should be taken into account in determinations of the respiratory Q10. Moreover, the length of time between the temperature change and respiration measurements is an important factor.