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Respir Physiol. 2001 Nov 15;128(3):317-29.

Haemoglobin function in vertebrates: evolutionary changes in cellular regulation in hypoxia.

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Department of Biology, University of Turku, FIN-20014, Turku, Finland.


The evolution of erythrocytic hypoxia responses is reviewed by comparing the cellular control of haemoglobin-oxygen affinity in agnathans, teleost fish and terrestrial vertebrates. The most ancient response to hypoxic conditions appears to be an increase in cell volume, which increases the haemoglobin-oxygen affinity in lampreys. In teleost fish, an increase of cell volume in hypoxic conditions is also evident. The volume increase is coupled to an increase in erythrocyte pH. These changes are caused by an adrenergic activation of sodium/proton exchange across the erythrocyte membrane. The mechanism is important in acute hypoxia and is followed by a decrease in cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and guanosine triphosphate (GTP) concentrations in continued hypoxia. In hypoxic bird embryos, the ATP levels are also reduced. The mechanisms by which hypoxia decreases cellular ATP and GTP concentrations remains unknown, although at least in bird embryos cAMP-dependent mechanisms have been implicated. In mammals, hypoxia responses appear to occur mainly via modulation of cellular organic phosphate concentrations. In moderate hypoxia, 2,3-diphosphoglycerate levels are increased as a result of alkalosis caused by increased ventilation.

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