When wild type (wt) tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L. cv. Petit Havana SR1) suspension cells were grown under phosphate (P) limitation, they contained large amounts of mitochondrial alternative oxidase (AOX). When these cells were resupplied with P, there was a large, immediate and sustained stimulation of respiration to support a period of rapid P uptake. Two lines of evidence suggest that the abundant level of AOX present in wt cells contributed to this stimulated rate of respiration. First, when P-limited transgenic antisense tobacco cells (AS8) lacking AOX were resupplied with P, the stimulation of respiration was much less dramatic even though these cells displayed similar rates of P uptake. Second, while the stimulated rate of respiration in AS8 cells was insensitive (as expected) to the AOX inhibitor n-propyl gallate (nPG), much of the stimulated rate of respiration in wt cells could be inhibited by nPG. Given the non-phosphorylating nature of AOX respiration, wt cells required higher rates of electron transport to O2 than AS8 cells to support similar rates of P uptake. The utilization of AOX by wt cells during P uptake was apparently not occurring because the cytochrome (Cyt) pathway alone could not fully support the rate of P uptake, as the respiration of cells lacking AOX (either untreated AS8 cells or wt cells treated with nPG) supported similar rates of P uptake as wt cells with abundant AOX. Rather, we provide in vivo evidence that the utilization of AOX during the period of high respiration supporting P uptake was to dampen the mitochondrial generation of active oxygen species (AOS).