Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 122, Issue 4, pp 445–454 | Cite as

Variety-specific response of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) leaf mitochondria to drought stress

  • Valya VassilevaEmail author
  • Lyudmila Simova-Stoilova
  • Klimentina Demirevska
  • Urs Feller
Regular Paper


The main objective of the present work was to examine leaf respiratory responses to dehydration and subsequent recovery in three varieties of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) known to differ in their level of drought tolerance. Under dehydration, both total respiration and salicylhydroxamic acid (SHAM)-resistant cytochrome (Cyt) pathway respiration by leaf segments decreased significantly compared with well-watered plants. This decrease was more pronounced in the drought-sensitive Sadovo and Prelom genotypes. In contrast, the KCN-resistant SHAM-sensitive alternative (Alt) pathway became increasingly engaged, and accounted for about 80% of the total respiration. In the drought-tolerant Katya variety, increased contribution of the Alt pathway was accompanied by a slight decrease in Cyt pathway activity. Respiration of isolated leaf mitochondria also showed a variety-specific drought response. Mitochondria from drought-sensitive genotypes had low oxidative phosphorylation efficiency after dehydration and rewatering, whereas the drought-tolerant Katya mitochondria showed higher phosphorylation rates. Morphometric analysis of leaf ultrastructure revealed that mitochondria occupied approximately 7% of the cell area in control plants. Under dehydration, in the drought-sensitive varieties this area was reduced to about 2.0%, whereas in Katya it was around 6.0%. The results are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms underlying variety-specific mitochondrial responses to dehydration.


Drought stress Leaf ultrastructure Plant mitochondria Wheat variety 



Ratio of the amount of phosphorylated ADP to oxygen consumed


Alternative oxidase

Alt pathway

Alternative pathway

Cyt pathway

Cytochrome pathway


n-Propyl gallate


Respiratory control


Reactive oxygen species


Salicylhydroxamic acid



This study was supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, SCOPES (project IZ73AO-111142, DILPA) and from the Ministry of Education and Science of Republic Bulgaria (projects CC 1503 and PISA-INI14). The authors are grateful to A. Kostadinova and B. Juperlieva-Mateeva for their excellent technical assistance, and to Marleen De Keukelaere for her help and support. We apologize to all colleagues whose relevant work could not be cited due to space limitations.


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Copyright information

© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valya Vassileva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lyudmila Simova-Stoilova
    • 1
  • Klimentina Demirevska
    • 1
  • Urs Feller
    • 2
  1. 1.Acad. M. Popov Institute of Plant PhysiologyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Institute of Plant Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)University of BernBernSwitzerland

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