Oxygen is an indispensable substrate for many biochemical reactions in plants, including energy metabolism (respiration). Despite its importance, plants lack an active transport mechanism to distribute oxygen to all cells. Therefore, steep oxygen gradients occur within most plant tissues, which can be exacerbated by environmental perturbations that further reduce oxygen availability. Plants possess various responses to cope with spatial and temporal variations in oxygen availability, many of which involve metabolic adaptations to deal with energy crises induced by low oxygen. Responses are induced gradually when oxygen concentrations decrease and are rapidly reversed upon reoxygenation. A direct effect of the oxygen level can be observed in the stability, and thus activity, of various transcription factors that control the expression of hypoxia-induced genes. Additional signaling pathways are activated by the impact of oxygen deficiency on mitochondrial and chloroplast functioning. Here, we describe the molecular components of the oxygen-sensing pathway.


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