, Volume 231, Issue 1, pp 93–107 | Cite as

Mitochondrial bioenergetics linked to the manifestation of programmed cell death during somatic embryogenesis of Abies alba

  • Elisa Petrussa
  • Alberto Bertolini
  • Valentino Casolo
  • Jana Krajňáková
  • Francesco Macrì
  • Angelo Vianello
Original Article


The present work reports changes in bioenergetic parameters and mitochondrial activities during the manifestation of two events of programmed cell death (PCD), linked to Abies alba somatic embryogenesis. PCD, evidenced by in situ nuclear DNA fragmentation (TUNEL assay), DNA laddering and cytochrome c release, was decreased in maturing embryogenic tissue with respect to the proliferation stage. In addition, the major cellular energetic metabolites (ATP, NAD(P)H and glucose-6-phosphate) were highered during maturation. The main mitochondrial activities changed during two developmental stages. Mitochondria, isolated from maturing, with respect to proliferating cell masses, showed an increased activity of the alternative oxidase, external NADH dehydrogenase and fatty-acid mediated uncoupling. Conversely, a significant decrease of the mitochondrial K ATP + channel activity was observed. These results suggest a correlation between mitochondrial activities and the manifestation of PCD during the development of somatic embryos. In particular, it is suggested that the K ATP + channel activity could induce an entry of K+ into the matrix, followed by swelling and a release of cytochrome c during proliferation, whereas the alternative pathways, acting as anti-apoptotic factors, may partially counteract PCD events occurring during maturation of somatic embryos.


Abies Alternative oxidase KATP+ channel Mitochondria Programmed cell death Somatic embryogenesis 



Adenine nucleotide translocase


Cyanide-resistant alternative oxidase




Variations of fluorescence




Transmembrane electrical potential


Electron transport chain


Free fatty acids






Programmed cell death


Polyethylene glycol


Pro-embryogenic cell masses


Phenylmethanesulphonyl fluoride


Permeability transition pore


Plant uncoupling mitochondrial protein




Reactive oxygen species


Somatic embryogenesis




Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridinetriphosphate nick end labelling



Dr. Thomas Elthon (University of Nebraska, USA) is greatly acknowledged for providing the monoclonal anti-AOX antibody. Ms. Carla Calligaro (Animal Science Dept. of University of Udine, Italy) is greatly acknowledged for technical support provided during TUNEL and histological assays. This research was supported by the University of Udine.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisa Petrussa
    • 1
  • Alberto Bertolini
    • 1
  • Valentino Casolo
    • 1
  • Jana Krajňáková
    • 2
  • Francesco Macrì
    • 1
  • Angelo Vianello
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Plant Biology, Department of Biology and Plant ProtectionUniversity of UdineUdineItaly
  2. 2.National Forest CentreForest Research InstituteZvolenSlovakia

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