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Title: The swamp eel Monopterus albus reduces endogenous ammonia production and detoxifies ammonia to glutamine during 144 h of aerial exposure
Authors: Tay, A.S.L.
Chew, S.F.
Ip, Y.K. 
Keywords: Amino acid
Glutamine synthetase
Monopterus albus
Swamp eel
Issue Date: Jul-2003
Citation: Tay, A.S.L., Chew, S.F., Ip, Y.K. (2003-07). The swamp eel Monopterus albus reduces endogenous ammonia production and detoxifies ammonia to glutamine during 144 h of aerial exposure. Journal of Experimental Biology 206 (14) : 2473-2486. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The swamp eel Monopterus albus inhabits muddy ponds, swamps, canals and rice fields, where it can burrow within the moist earth during the dry summer season, thus surviving for long periods without water. This study aimed to elucidate the strategies adopted by M. albus to defend against endogenous ammonia toxicity when kept out of water for 144 h (6 days). Like any other fish, M. albus has difficulties in excreting ammonia during aerial exposure. In fact, the rates of ammonia and urea excretions decreased significantly in specimens throughout the 144 h of aerial exposure. At 144 h, the ammonia and urea excretion rates decreased to 20% and 25%, respectively, of the corresponding control values. Consequently, ammonia accumulated to high levels in the tissues and plasma of the experimental specimens. Apparently, M. albus has developed relatively higher ammonia tolerance at the cellular and subcellular levels compared with many other teleost fish. Since the urea concentration in the tissues of specimens exposed to air remained low, urea synthesis was apparently not adopted as a strategy to detoxify endogenous ammonia during 144 h of aerial exposure. Instead, ammonia produced through amino acid catabolism was detoxified to glutamine, leading to the accumulation of glutamine in the body during the first 72 h of aerial exposure. Complimenting the increased glutamine formation was a significant increase in glutamine synthetase activity in the liver of specimens exposed to air for 144 h. Formation of glutamine is energetically expensive. It is probably because M. albus remained relatively inactive on land that the reduction in energy demand for locomotory activity facilitated its exploitation of glutamine formation to detoxify endogenous ammonia. There was a slight decrease in the glutamine level in the body of the experimental animals between 72 h and 144 h of aerial exposure, which indicates that glutamine might not be the end product of nitrogen metabolism. In addition, these results suggest that suppression of endogenous ammonia production, possibly through reductions in proteolysis and amino acid catabolism, acts as the major strategy to avoid ammonia intoxication in specimens exposed to air for ≥72 h. It is concluded that glutamine formation and reduction in ammonia production together served as effective strategies to avoid the excessive accumulation of ammonia in the body of M. albus during 144 h of aerial exposure. However, these strategies might not be adequate to sustain the survival of M. albus in the mud for longer periods during drought because ammonia and glutamine concentrations had already built up to high levels in the body of specimens exposed to air for 144 h.
Source Title: Journal of Experimental Biology
ISSN: 00220949
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.00464
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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