What physiological role(s) does the alternative oxidase perform in animals?
journal contributionposted on 2022-05-09, 06:47 authored by Howard JacobsHoward Jacobs, John BallardJohn Ballard
Although the alternative oxidase, AOX, was known to be widespread in the animal kingdom by 2004, its exact physiological role in animals remains poorly understood. Here we present what evidence has accumulated thus far, indicating that it may play a role in enabling animals to resist various kinds of stress, including toxins, abnormal oxygen or nutrient levels, protein unfolding, dessication and pathogen attack. Much of our knowledge comes from studies in model organisms, where any benefits from exogenously expressed AOX may be masked by its unregulated expression, which may itself be stressful. The further question arises as to why AOX has been lost from some major crown groups, namely vertebrates, insects and cephalopods, if it plays important roles favouring the survival of other animals. We conclude by presenting some speculative ideas addressing this question, and an outline of how it might be approached experimentally.