Hypoxia and Anoxia Tolerance in the Annual Killifish Austrofundulus Limnaeus

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Integrative and Comparative Biology

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Embryos of the annual killifish Austrofundulus limnaeus are routinely exposed to oxygen limitation during development and are extremely tolerant of anoxia. Importantly, tolerance of anoxia is not strictly associated with entrance into metabolic dormancy associated with diapause II, but rather any embryo will respond to anoxia by entering into a state of anoxia-induced quiescence. Hypoxia causes a reduction in the rate of development, reduced heart rates, and reduced capacities for metabolic enzyme activity in both aerobic and anaerobic pathways. Embryos of A. limnaeus begin life as oxyconformers, and transition into oxyregulators near the completion of embryonic development. As this transition occurs, extreme anoxia tolerance is lost. The rate of early development is independent of oxygen partial pressure, despite the fact that the embryos are oxyconformers. This suggests a contribution from anaerobic pathways to support early development. However, the specific pathways supporting this metabolism are unknown. The response of A. limnaeus embryos to hypoxia and anoxia is unique compared to other fishes and most other vertebrates, and thus future studies on this species may lend insight into novel mechanisms that support survival during prolonged oxygen limitation.



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