Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of Idaho, Moscow 83844-3052, U.S.A.
Mitochondria play important roles in animal apoptosis and are implicated in salicylic acid (SA)-induced plant resistance to viral pathogens. In a previous study, we demonstrated that SA induces rapid inhibition of mitochondrial electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation in tobacco cells. In the present study, we report that plant programmed cell death induced during pathogen elicitor-induced hypersensitive response (HR) is also associated with altered mitochondrial functions. Harpin, an HR elicitor produced by Erwinia amylovora, induced inhibition of ATP synthesis in tobacco cell cultures. Inhibition of ATP synthesis occurred almost immediately after incubation with harpin and preceded hypersensitive cell death induced by the elicitor. Diphenylene iodonium, an inhibitor of the oxidative burst, did not block harpin-induced inhibition of ATP synthesis or cell death, suggesting that oxidative burst was not the direct cause for these two harpin-induced processes. Unlike SA, harpin had no significant effect on total respiratory O2 uptake of treated cells. However, respiration of harpin-treated tobacco cells became very sensitive to the alternative oxidase inhibitors salicyl-hydroxamic acid and n-propyl gallate. Thus, harpin treatment resulted in reduced capacity of mitochondrial cytochrome pathway electron transport, which could lead to the observed inhibition of ATP synthesis. Given the recently demonstrated roles of mitochondria in apoptosis, this rapid inhibition of mitochondrial functions may play a role in harpin-induced hypersensitive cell death.