In addition to possessing multiple NAD(P)H dehydrogenases, most plant mitochondria contain a cyanide- and antimycin-insensitive alternative terminal oxidase. Although the general characteristics of this terminal oxidase have been known for a considerable number of years, the mechanism by which it is regulated is unclear and until recently there has been relatively little information on its exact nature. In the past 5 years, however, the application of molecular and novel voltametric techniques has advanced our understanding of this oxidase considerably. In this article, we review briefly current understanding on the structure and function of the multiple NADH dehydrogenases and consider, in detail, the nature and regulation of the alternative oxidase. We derive a kinetic model for electron transfer through the ubiquinone pool based on a proposed model for the reduction of the oxidase by quinol and show how this can account for deviations from Q-pool behaviour. We review information on the attempts to isolate and characterise the oxidase and finally consider the molecular aspects of the expression of the alternative oxidase.