Differential gene expression in the liver of the African lungfish, Protopterus annectens, after 6 days of estivation in air
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This study aimed to identify estivation-specific gene clusters through the determination of differential gene expressions in the liver of Protopterus annectens after 6 days of estivation in a mucus cocoon in air (normoxia) using suppression subtractive hybridization polymerase chain reaction. Our results demonstrated that 6 days of estivation in normoxia led to up-regulation of mRNA expressions of several genes related to urea synthesis, including carbamoyl phosphate synthetase (Cps), argininosuccinate synthetase and glutamine synthetase. They indicate that increased urea synthesis, despite being energy-intensive, is an important adaptive response of estivation. They also offer indirect support to the proposition that urea synthesis in this lungfish involved a Cps that uses glutamine as a substrate. In addition, up- or down-regulation of several gene clusters occurred in the liver of P. annectens after 6 days of estivation in normoxia. These estivation-specific genes were involved in the prevention of clot formation, activation of the lectin pathway for complement activation, conservation of minerals (e.g. iron and copper) and increased production of hemoglobin beta. Since there were up- and down-regulation of mRNA expressions of genes related to ribosomal proteins and translational elongation factors, there could be simultaneous increases in protein degradation and protein synthesis during the first 6 days (the induction phase) of estivation, confirming the importance of reconstruction of protein structures in preparation for the maintenance phase of estivation.