Cyanide metabolism in relation to ethylene production in plant tissues

W K Yip, S F Yang
Plant Physiology 1988, 88 (2): 473-6
HCN is the putative product of C-1 and amino moieties of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) during its conversion to ethylene. In apple (Malus sylvestrus Mill.) slices or auxin-treated mungbean (Vigna radiata L.) hypocotyls, which produced ethylene at high rates, the steady state concentration of HCN was found to be no higher than 0.2 micromolar, which was too low to inhibit respiration (reported Ki for HCN to inhibit respiration was 10-20 micromolar). However, these tissues became cyanogenic when treated with ACC, the precursor of ethylene, and with 2-aminoxyacetic acid, which inhibits beta-cyanoalanine synthase, the main enzyme to detoxify HCN; the HCN levels in these tissues went up to 1.7 and 8.1 micromolar, respectively. Although ethylene production by avocado (Persea gratissima) and apple fruits increased several hundred-fold during ripening, beta-cyanoalanine synthase activity increased only one- to two-fold. These findings support the notion that HCN is a co-product of ethylene biosynthesis and that the plant tissues possess ample capacity to detoxify HCN formed during ethylene biosynthesis so that the concentration of HCN in plant tissues is kept at a low level.

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