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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2004 Dec 15;144(2-3):179-90.

pH regulation and swimbladder function in fish.

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  • 1Institut für Zoologie und Limnologie, Universität Innsbruck, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


Gas gland cells of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) are specialized for the production and secretion of acidic metabolites. Although typically exposed to high oxygen partial pressures, they convert glucose mainly into lactate, but also produce CO2 in the pentose phosphate shunt. Only a very small fraction of glucose is oxidized via aerobic metabolism. Although the buffer capacity of gas gland cells appears to be high, even at low extracellular pH values intracellular pH is always kept about 0.2-0.3 pH-units more acidic. Thus, under all physiological conditions proton concentration within gas gland cells is higher than in the extracellular fluid, facilitating proton extrusion. Diffusion of CO2, Na+/H+-exchange, sodium-dependent anion exchange and a V-ATPase represent the pathways available for proton secretion. While under resting conditions the sodium-dependent pathways and diffusion of CO2 appear to be the dominating mechanisms for acid secretion, at low intracellular pH the contribution of Na+/H+-exchange and of V-ATPase appear to increase, while sodium-dependent anion exchange becomes less important. The mechanisms regulating the activity of these acid-secreting pathways and of the metabolism responsible for the production of protons are largely unknown.

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