Core principles which explain variation in respiration across biological scales

Brendan M. O'Leary, Shinichi Asao, A. Harvey Millar, Owen K. Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Summary Respiration is a core biological process that has important implications for the biochemistry, physiology, and ecology of plants. The study of respiration is thus conducted from several different perspectives by a range of scientific disciplines with dissimilar objectives, such as metabolic engineering, crop breeding, and climate-change modelling. One aspect in common among the different objectives is a need to understand and quantify the variation in respiration across scales of biological organization. The central tenet of this review is that different perspectives on respiration can complement each other when connected. To better accommodate interdisciplinary thinking, we identify distinct mechanisms which encompass the variation in respiratory rates and functions across biological scales. The relevance of these mechanisms towards variation in plant respiration are explained in the context of five core principles: (1) respiration performs three distinct functions; (2) metabolic pathway flexibility underlies respiratory performance; (3) supply and demand interact over time to set respiration rates; (4) acclimation involves adjustments in enzyme capacities, and (5) respiration is a complex trait that helps define and is impacted by plant lifestyle strategies. We argue that each perspective on respiration rests on these principles to varying degrees and that broader appreciation of how respiratory variation occurs can unite research across scales. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670-686
Number of pages17
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


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