Date: 18 Oct 2006

Pressure and life: some biological strategies

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Abstract

All biological processes of life on Earth experience varying degrees of pressure. Aquatic organisms living in the deep-sea, as well as chondrocytic cells of articular cartilage are exposed to hydrostatic pressures that rise up to several hundred times that of atmospheric pressure. In the case of marine larvae that disperse through the oceanic water column, pressure changes might be responsible for stress conditions during development, limiting colonisation capabilities. In a number of biological systems, life strategies may be significantly influenced by pressure. In this review, we will focus on the consequences of pressure changes on various biological processes, and more specifically on animals living in the deep-sea. Revisiting general principles of pressure effects on biological systems, we present recent data illustrating the diversity of effects pressure may have at different levels in biological systems, with particular attention to effects on gene expression. After a review of the main pressure equipments available today for studying species living naturally at high pressure, we summarise what is known concerning pressure impact during animal development.