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J Exp Zool. 2002 Jun 15;293(1):39-45.

Elevated levels of trimethylamine oxide in deep-sea fish: evidence for synthesis and intertissue physiological importance.

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Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland. St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, A1C 5S7.


Tissue levels of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) were compared for seven teleost and two elasmobranch species captured from three depth ranges: shallow (<150 m), moderate (500-700 m), and deep (1,000-1,500 m). Within the teleosts, the deep-caught species had significantly greater TMAO content than shallow- or moderate-caught species. In all teleosts, muscle had substantially more TMAO than all other tissues. Kidney or, in some cases, liver had elevated trimethylamine (TMA) content, 2.20-9.65 mmol/kg, along with appreciable trimethylamine oxidase (TMAoxi) activity, suggesting active TMAO synthesis. No correlation was found between TMAoxi activity and TMAO content. The elasmobranchs in this study, Squalus acanthias and Centroscyllium fabricii from shallow and deep water, respectively, were both squaliform sharks. The deep-caught species had significantly more TMAO in all tissues than the shallow species. Furthermore, urea was significantly less in the deep species in all tissues except liver, while the urea:TMAO ratio was significantly less in all tissues. As with teleosts, the TMAO content of muscle was substantially higher for both elasmobranchs than in all other tissues. TMAoxi was below levels of detection in both elasmobranch species, suggesting that TMAO is obtained solely from the diet. This study expands the trend of increased muscle TMAO in deep-sea fish to a variety of other tissues. The accumulation of TMAO in various tissues in deep-sea teleosts and the accumulation of TMAO and concurrent urea decrease in a deep-sea elasmobranch in comparison to a shallow water species strongly support the contention that TMAO is of physiological importance in deep-sea fish.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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