Hagfish consume carrion, potentially exposing them to hypoxia, hypercarbia, and high environmental ammonia (HEA). We investigated branchial and cutaneous ammonia handling strategies by which Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) tolerate and recover from high ammonia loading. Hagfish were exposed to HEA (20 mmol L-1) for 48 h to elevate plasma total ammonia (TAmm) levels before placement into divided chambers for a 4 h recovery period in ammonia-free seawater where ammonia excretion (JAmm) was measured independently in the anterior and posterior compartments. Localized HEA exposures were also conducted by subjecting hagfish to HEA in either the anterior or posterior compartments. During recovery, HEA-exposed animals increased JAmm in both compartments, with the posterior compartment comprising ~20% of the total JAmm compared to ~11% in non-HEA exposed fish. Plasma TAmm increased substantially when whole hagfish, and the posterior regions, were exposed to HEA. Alternatively, plasma TAmm did not elevate following anteriorly-localized HEA exposure. JAmm was concentration-dependent (0.05-5 mmol L-1) across excised skin patches at up to 8-fold greater rates than in skin sections that were excised from HEA-exposed hagfish. Skin excised from more posterior regions displayed greater JAmm than those from more anterior regions. Immunohistochemistry with hagfish-specific anti-rhesus glycoprotein type c (α-hRhcg; ammonia transporter) antibodies was characterized by staining on the basal aspect of hagfish epidermis while Western blotting demonstrated greater expression of Rhcg in more posterior skin sections. We conclude that cutaneous Rhcg proteins are involved in cutaneous ammonia excretion by Pacific hagfish, and that this mechanism could be particularly important during feeding.
- Rhesus glycoprotein
- Copyright © 2017, American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology