A systematic survey was undertaken, of the effects of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide (in the presence of 20 per cent oxygen), in darkness and light, on the relative rates of respiration, mitosis, and interphase in pea root tips. The inhibition of respiration by carbon monoxide was light-sensitive, but the inhibition by hydrogen cyanide was light-stable. The inhibitions were presumably due to combination of the inhibitor with the iron of cytochrome oxidase, in its divalent and trivalent forms respectively. In contrast, the inhibitions of mitosis by both poisons proved to be light-sensitive. The light-sensitive inhibition of mitosis by carbon monoxide shows that an iron complex is responsible for the process. That the inhibition of mitosis by hydrogen cyanide is also light-reversible shows that, in contrast with cytochrome oxidase, the mitotic iron complex remains always in the divalent state. The relative affinities of the mitotic ferrous complex, in molar units, were 0.68 for CO/O2, and 0.37 for HCN/O2. The properties of the complex are analogous to, yet distinct from, Gastrophilus haemoglobin and reduced cytochrome oxidase. It is considered that the arrest of mitosis by oxygen lack, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide is definitely due to interference with this unidentified, non-respiratory ferrous complex.

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