A strong association is implicit between mitochondrial function and the energy demands of cells responding to stress. Yet, the dynamics of this organelle-cellular dependency have been difficult to resolve. This study examines a new diagnostic parameter namely, mitochondrial maintenance and self-restoration as exhibited by the course of respiratory functions (states 3 and 4 respiratory rates, respiratory control) of mitochoudria extracted during and after exposure of intact `Hass' avocado (Persea americana) fruit to different stress atmospheres: anoxia (100% N2) or high (25% and 75%) CO2 for varying durations. Comparisons are made with direct exposure of the mitochondria themselves to similar atmospheres. In general, exposure of the fruit to CO2 rich atmospheres enhanced the capacity of their mitochondria to restore energy-linked functions whereas anoxia caused irreparable damage. The physiological (climacteric) state of the fruit also affected the stress capacity of the mitochondria contained therein, anaerobiosis being more harmful to mitochondria in riper fruit. In contrast to their effects in vivo, in vitro anoxia appeared to sustain mitochondrial energy-linked functions, whereas high CO2 was clearly harmful. These and other observations are discussed in the context of mitochondrial self-restoration or homeostasis and its relevance to postharvest stress-atmosphere storage for purposes such as pathogen suppression or insect control.