Plants, unlike most other multicellular organisms, cannot distribute oxygen actively to all cells that require oxygen for respiratory energy metabolism. As a consequence, plant internal oxygen concentrations can drop to rather low levels, due to long transport pathways with relatively high resistance for oxygen diffusion through the extracellular space. Therefore, plant cells have adopted a sophisticated regulatory mechanism to optimize energy metabolism, starting from a multitude of different molecular signaling pathways to register the cellular oxygen concentration, to many different control systems to optimize metabolic energy use efficiency when oxygen availability is limited. These adaptive responses are mainly affecting plant primary metabolism, including the sugars from the glycolytic pathway and organic acids from the Krebs-cycle, which both have immediate consequences for amino acid metabolism of the cell as well. A complicating factor for understanding plant responses to low-oxygen conditions is that most of the time, plant cells have to cope with several adverse conditions occurring simultaneously. Therefore, our next challenge is to understand how plant tissues deal with multiple stress factors, by investigating how “metabolic decision-making” is leading to an energetically favorable solution.
Arabidopsis thaliana, a small weed that is commonly used for research on plant molecular physiology due to its powerful genetic resources, has been used for most of the research. In this presentation, I will mainly talk about the knowledge that is obtained from this model species, and discuss how this might be applied to other species and plant products.
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