Some filamentous fungi exhibit a limited vegetative growth with modifications in the mitochondria, suggesting the involvement of mitochondria in the process of ageing. Nevertheless, the relationship between the ability to grow or the fate of these cells relative to their mitochondrial membrane potential (Ψmt) level has not been investigated. Using flow cytometric analysis, we have assessed Ψmtin young and senescent cultures of wild type strains and mitochondrial or nuclear mutant strains of Podospora anserina that present very long or brief life span. When we compared two distinct populations of cells obtained from the same strain, we can show a correlation not only between Ψmtand ageing, but also between Ψmtand the frequency of regeneration and/or the life span. However, this relationship is not observed when we compared the cells obtained from different physiological states or mutants strains. These results allow us to suggest that the Ψmtmodifications during senescence could be only one of the possible consequences of the process and are not the factor driving towards death. We also show that the driving force of Ψmtis principally maintained by the alternative pathway during ageing, suggesting a role of the alternative oxidase pathway. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
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