The tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle is one of the iconic pathways in metabolism. The cycle is commonly thought of in terms of energy metabolism, being responsible for the oxidation of respiratory substrates to drive ATP synthesis. However, the reactions of carboxylic acid metabolism are embedded in a larger metabolic network and the conventional TCA cycle is only one way in which the component reactions can be organised. Recent evidence from labelling studies and metabolic network models suggest that the organisation of carboxylic acid metabolism in plants is highly dependent on the metabolic and physiological demands of the cell. Thus, alternative, non-cyclic flux modes occur in leaves in the light, in some developing oilseeds, and under specific physiological circumstances such as anoxia.
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