Linking acid-base balance with nitrogen regulation in the decapod crustacean, Carcinus maenas

Thumbnail Image
2013, 2016
Fehsenfeld, Sandra
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A
Canadian Journal of Zoology (in print)
As one of the most successful invasive species in the marine environment around the globe, the green crab Carcinus maenas possesses efficient regulatory mechanisms to quickly acclimate to environmental changes. The most important organs in this process are the nine pairs of gills that not only allow for osmoregulation, but have been shown to be involved in ammonia excretion and respiratory gas exchange. To date, however, little is known about the gills’ contribution to acid-base regulation that might become increasingly important in a “future ocean scenario” whereby surface ocean pH is predicted to drop by up to 0.5 units by the year 2100. The present thesis aims to characterize the green crab gills’ role in acid-base regulation and how it is linked to ammonia excretion. After exposure to hypercapnia (0.4 kPa pCO2 for 7 days), osmoregulating green crabs were capable of fully compensating for the resulting extracellular respiratory acidosis, while osmoconforming green crabs only partially buffered the accompanying drop in hemolymph pH after acclimation to 1% CO2 for 48 hours. Perfusion experiments on isolated green crab gills showed that different gills contributed to the excretion of H+ in an individual pattern and indicated that NH4+ is an important component of branchial acid excretion. Experiments on gill mRNA expression and pharmaceutical effects on isolated gills identified distinct epithelial transporters to play significant roles in branchial acid base regulation: Rhesus-like protein, basolateral bicarbonate transporter(s), cytoplasmic V-(H+)-ATPase, Na+/H+-exchanger, basolateral Na+/K+-ATPase, cytoplasmic and membrane bound carbonic anhydrase, and basolateral K+ channels. Regarding the latter, the present work provides the first sequence-based evidence for a potassium/sodium hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channel (CmHCN) capable of promoting NH4+ transport in the green crabs’ gill epithelium, and further demonstrates its direct involvement in branchial acid-base regulation. This highly conserved protein is a potentially important novel key-player in acid-base regulation in all animals. Interestingly, the observed principles linking acid-base to ammonia regulation in the decapod crustacean gill epithelium resemble many observations previously made in vertebrates. The data of the present thesis therefore provides valuable information for general acid-base regulation, while contributing substantially to our understanding of acid-base regulation in invertebrates.
acid-base regulation, ammonia, gill perfusion, hypercapnia, ocean acidification