Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 177, Issue 4, pp 473–481 | Cite as

Anoxia-induced changes in reactive oxygen species and cyclic nucleotides in the painted turtle

  • Matthew Edward Pamenter
  • Michael David Richards
  • Leslie Thomas Buck
Original Paper


The Western painted turtle survives months without oxygen. A key adaptation is a coordinated reduction of cellular ATP production and utilization that may be signaled by changes in the concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cyclic nucleotides (cAMP and cGMP). Little is known about the involvement of cyclic nucleotides in the turtle’s metabolic arrest and ROS have not been previously measured in any facultative anaerobes. The present study was designed to measure changes in these second messengers in the anoxic turtle. ROS were measured in isolated turtle brain sheets during a 40-min normoxic to anoxic transition. Changes in cAMP and cGMP were determined in turtle brain, pectoralis muscle, heart and liver throughout 4 h of forced submergence at 20–22°C. Turtle brain ROS production decreased 25% within 10 min of cyanide or N2-induced anoxia and returned to control levels upon reoxygenation. Inhibition of electron transfer from ubiquinol to complex III caused a smaller decrease in [ROS]. Conversely, inhibition of complex I increased [ROS] 15% above controls. In brain [cAMP] decreased 63%. In liver [cAMP] doubled after 2 h of anoxia before returning to control levels with prolonged anoxia. Conversely, skeletal muscle and heart [cAMP] remained unchanged; however, skeletal muscle [cGMP] became elevated sixfold after 4 h of submergence. In liver and heart [cGMP] rose 41 and 127%, respectively, after 2 h of anoxia. Brain [cGMP] did not change significantly during 4 h of submergence. We conclude that turtle brain ROS production occurs primarily between mitochondrial complexes I and III and decreases during anoxia. Also, cyclic nucleotide concentrations change in a manner suggestive of a role in metabolic suppression in the brain and a role in increasing liver glycogenolysis.


Turtle Anoxia Reactive oxygen species Cyclic-AMP Cyclic-GMP 



We would like to thank Dr. Milt Charlton for his advice regarding fluorescent recordings, and the use of his fluorescent microscopy system. This research was supported by an NSERC discovery grant to LTB. All Experiments comply with the “Principles of animal care,” publication No. 86-23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health, and also with the current laws of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Edward Pamenter
    • 1
  • Michael David Richards
    • 1
  • Leslie Thomas Buck
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cell and Systems Biology, and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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