Indexed on: 19 Jul '05Published on: 19 Jul '05Published in: Annals of botany
pH regulation is the result of a complex interaction of ion transport, H+ buffering, H+-consuming and H+-producing reactions. Cells under anoxia experience an energy crisis; an early response thereof (in most tissues) is a rapid cytoplasmic acidification of roughly half a pH unit. Depending on the degree of anoxia tolerance, this pH remains relatively stable for some time, but then drops further due to an energy shortage, which, in concert with a general breakdown of transmembrane gradients, finally leads to cell death unless the plant finds access to an energy source.In this review the much-debated origin of the initial pH change and its regulation under anoxia is discussed, as well as the problem of how tissues deal with the energy crisis and to what extent pH regulation and membrane transport from and into the vacuole and the apoplast is a part thereof.It is postulated that, because a foremost goal of cells under anoxia must be energy production (having an anaerobic machinery that produces insufficient amounts of ATP), a new pH is set to ensure a proper functioning of the involved enzymes. Thus, the anoxic pH is not experienced as an error signal and is therefore not reversed to the aerobic level. Although acclimated and anoxia-tolerant tissues may display higher cytoplasmic pH than non-acclimated or anoxia-intolerant tissues, evidence for an impeded pH-regulation is missing even in the anoxia-intolerant tissues. For sufficient energy production, residual H+ pumping is vital to cope with anoxia by importing energy-rich compounds; however it is not vital for pH-regulation. Whereas the initial acidification is not due to energy shortage, subsequent uncontrolled acidosis occurring in concert with a general gradient breakdown damages the cell but may not be the primary event.