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Comparison between the antioxidant status of terrestrial and diving mammals.

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Departamento de Ecologia e Zoologia, CCB, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 88040-900, Florianopolis SC, Brazil.


Many diving mammals are known for their ability to deal with nitrogen supersaturation and to tolerate apnea for extended periods. They are all characterized by high oxygen-carrying capacity in blood together with high oxygen storage in their muscle mass due to large myoglobin concentrations. The above properties theoretically also imply a high tissue antioxidant defenses (AD) to counteract reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation associated with the rapid transition from apnea to reoxygenation. Different enzymatic (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione reductase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione S-transferase), and non-enzymatic (levels of glutathione) AD as well as cellular damage (thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances contents, as a measure of lipoperoxidation) were measured in blood samples obtained from anesthetized animals, and also in blood obtained from recently dead diving mammals, and compared to some terrestrial mammals (n=5 in both groups). The results confirmed that diving mammals have, in general, higher antioxidant status compared to non-diving mammals. Apparently, to avoid exposure of tissues to changing high oxygen levels, and therefore to avoid an oxidative stress condition related to antioxidant consumption and increased ROS generation, diving mammals possess constitutive high levels of antioxidants in tissues. These data are in agreement with short-term AD adaptations related to torpor and to animals that experience large daily changes in oxygen consumption. These data are similar to the long-term adaptations of animals that undergo hibernation, estivation, freezing-thawing and dehydration-rehydration processes. In summary, animals that routinely face high changes in oxygen availability and/or consumption seem to show a general strategy to prevent oxidative damage by having either appropriate high constitutive AD and/or the ability to undergo arrested states, where depressed metabolic rates minimize the oxidative challenge.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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