Cold stress effects on the expression of genes for respiratory chain enzymes were investigated in potato (Solanum tuberosum L., cv. Desiree) leaves. The nda1 and ndb1 genes, homologues to genes encoding the non-proton-pumping respiratory chain NADH dehydrogenases of Escherichia coli and yeast, were compared to genes encoding catalytic subunits of the proton-pumping NADH dehydrogenase (complex I). Using a real-time PCR system, we demonstrate a specific and gradual decrease of the NDA1 transcript after exposing the plants to 5 degrees C. After 6 days of cold treatment the NDA1 transcript abundance is 10% of the original level. This decrease is accompanied by specific decreases of immunodetected NDA protein and internal rotenone-insensitive NADH oxidation in mitochondria isolated from cold-treated plants. The alternative oxidase is not cold-induced neither at the protein nor at the activity level. The results are discussed in relation to the recent finding that the nda1 gene expression is completely light-dependent.