Plant adaptations associated with a high efficiency of phosphorus (P) acquisition can be used to increase productivity and sustainability in a world with a growing population and decreasing rock phosphate reserves. White lupin (Lupinus albus) produces cluster roots that release carboxylates to efficiently mobilize P from P-sorbing soils. It has been hypothesized that an increase in the activity of the alternative oxidase (AOX) would allow for the mitochondrial oxidation of NAD(P)H produced during citrate synthesis in cluster roots at a developmental stage when there is a low demand for ATP. We used the oxygen-isotope fractionation technique to study the in vivo respiratory activities of the cytochrome oxidase pathway (COP) and the alternative oxidase pathway (AOP) in different root sections of white lupins grown hydroponically with and without P. In parallel, AOX protein levels and internal carboxylate concentrations were determined in cluster and non-cluster roots. Higher in vivoAOP activity was measured in cluster roots when malate and citrate concentrations were also high, thus confirming our hypothesis. AOX protein levels were not always correlated with in vivoAOP activity, suggesting post-translational regulation of AOX.