Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 377-386

First online:

Nitrogenous waste excretion and accumulation of urea and ammonia inChalcalburnus tarichi (Cyprinidae), endemic to the extremely alkaline Lake Van (Eastern Turkey)

  • Eva DanulatAffiliated withUniv. Hamburg, Inst. f. Hydrobiologie u. Fischereiwissenschaft
  • , Stephan KempeAffiliated withUniv. Hamburg, Inst. f. Biogeochemie u. Meereschemie

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The endemic, anadromous cyprinidChalcalburnus tarichi is the only fish species known to occur in alkaline Lake Van (Eastern Anatolia, Turkey). EightC. tarichi were maintained individually in Lake Van water (17 – 19°C; pH 9.8; 153 mEq·I−1 total alkalinity; 22‰ total salinity) and tank water samples analyzed for 24 h in 2 to 4 h intervals. At zero time, < 1µM ammonia was present and urea was undetectable in the tank water; at 24 h, total ammonia and urea made up 114±32 and 35±25µM, respectively. Over the experimental period, ammonia-N and urea-N excretion averaged 1041±494 and 607±169μmoles·kg−1 fish·h−1, respectively. The extent of urea excretion was highly variable between specimens. Uric acid excretion was not detectable.

Urea was present at high concentrations in all tissues and plasma (25 – 35μmoles·g−1·ml−1) of freshly caughtC. tarichi; total ammonia content of the tissues was by a factor of 1.9 (liver) to 3.0 (brain) lower. High arginase activity (2.4±0.2 U·min−1·g−1) was detected in the liver ofC. tarichi but ornithine carbamoylphosphate transferase, a key enzyme of the ornithine-urea-cycle, was absent. Ureagenesis is likely through degradation of arginine and/or uricolysis. High glutamine synthetase activity (11±0.6 U·min−1·g−1) and low ammonia content in brain suggest that, like other teleosts,C. tarichi has an efficient ammonia detoxification in the brain, but in no other tissue.

Nitrogenous waste excretion at alkaline pH is discussed. The ability ofC. tarichi to excrete high levels of ammonia at extremely alkaline pH is unique among teleosts studied so far. The mechanism of ammonia excretion under Lake Van conditions remains to be elucidated.


teleost fishes excretion nitrogenous waste urea ammonia soda-lake adaptation enzyme activities GOT GPT GDH OCT arginase