Restricted O2 consumption in pea roots induced by hexanoic acid is linked to depletion of Krebs cycle substrates

Valentino Casolo, Marco Zancani*, Elisa Pellegrini, Antonio Filippi, Sara Gargiulo, Dennis Konnerup, Piero Morandini, Ole Pedersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Plant roots are exposed to hypoxia in waterlogged soils, and they are further challenged by specific phytotoxins produced by microorganisms in such conditions. One such toxin is hexanoic acid (HxA), which, at toxic levels, causes a strong decline in root O2 consumption. However, the mechanism underlying this process is still unknown. We treated pea (Pisum sativum L.) roots with 20 mM HxA at pH 5.0 and 6.0 for a short time (1 h) and measured leakage of key electrolytes such as metal cations, malate, citrate and nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC). After treatment, mitochondria were isolated to assess their functionality evaluated as electrical potential and O2 consumption rate. HxA treatment resulted in root tissue extrusion of K+, malate, citrate and NSC, but only the leakage of the organic acids and NSC increased at pH 5.0, concomitantly with the inhibition of O2 consumption. The activity of mitochondria isolated from treated roots was almost unaffected, showing just a slight decrease in oxygen consumption after treatment at pH 5.0. Similar results were obtained by treating the pea roots with another organic acid with a short carbon chain, that is, butyric acid. Based on these results, we propose a model in which HxA, in its undissociated form prevalent at acidic pH, stimulates the efflux of citrate, malate and NSC, which would, in turn, cause starvation of mitochondrial respiratory substrates of the Krebs cycle and a consequent decline in O2 consumption. Cation extrusion would be a compensatory mechanism in order to restore plasma membrane potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14024
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


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