Candida albicans is an opportunistic oral pathogen. The flexibility of this microorganism in response to environmental changes includes the expression of a cyanide-resistant alternative respiratory pathway. In the present study, we characterized both conventional and alternative respiratory pathways and determined their ADP/O ratios, inhibitor sensitivity profiles and the impact of the utilization of either pathway on susceptibility to commonly used antimycotics. Oxygen consumption by isolated mitochondria using NADH or malate/pyruvate as respiratory substrates indicated that C. albicans cells express both cytoplasmic and matrix NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase activities. The ADP/O ratio was higher for malate/pyruvate (2.2+/-0.1), which generate NADH in the matrix, than for externally added NADH (1.4+/-0.2). In addition, malate/pyruvate respiration was rotenone-sensitive, and an enzyme activity assay further confirmed that C. albicans cells express Complex I activity. Cells grown in the presence of antimycin A expressed the cyanide-insensitive respiratory pathway. Determination of the respiratory control ratio (RCR) and ADP/O ratios of mitochondria from these cells indicated that electron transport from ubiquinone to oxygen via the alternative respiratory pathway was not coupled to ATP production; however, an ADP/O ratio of 0.8 was found for substrates that donate electrons at Complex I. Comparison of antifungal susceptibility of C. albicans cells respiring via the conventional or alternative respiratory pathways showed that respiration via the alternative pathway does not reduce the susceptibility of cells to a series of clinically employed antimycotics (using Fungitest), or to the naturally occurring human salivary antifungal peptide, histatin 5.