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Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2011 Nov;160(3):412-20. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2011.07.010. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Hypoxic alligator embryos: chronic hypoxia, catecholamine levels and autonomic responses of in ovo alligators.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203-5017, USA.


Hypoxia is a naturally occurring environmental challenge for embryonic reptiles, and this is the first study to investigate the impact of chronic hypoxia on the in ovo development of autonomic cardiovascular regulation and circulating catecholamine levels in a reptile. We measured heart rate (f(H)) and chorioallantoic arterial blood pressure (MAP) in normoxic ('N21') and hypoxic-incubated ('H10'; 10% O(2)) American alligator embryos (Alligator mississippiensis) at 70, 80 and 90% of development. Embryonic alligator responses to adrenergic blockade with propranolol and phentolamine were very similar to previously reported responses of embryonic chicken, and demonstrated that embryonic alligator has α and β-adrenergic tone over the final third of development. However, adrenergic tone originates entirely from circulating catecholamines and is not altered by chronic hypoxic incubation, as neither cholinergic blockade with atropine nor ganglionic blockade with hexamethonium altered baseline cardiovascular variables in N21 or H10 embryos. In addition, both atropine and hexamethonium injection did not alter the generally depressive effects of acute hypoxia - bradycardia and hypotension. However, H10 embryos showed significantly higher levels of noradrenaline and adrenaline at 70% of development, as well as higher noradrenaline at 80% of development, suggesting that circulating catecholamines reach maximal levels earlier in incubation for H10 embryos, compared to N21 embryos. Chronically elevated levels of catecholamines may alter the normal balance between α and β-adrenoreceptors in H10 alligator embryos, causing chronic bradycardia and hypotension of H10 embryos measured in normoxia.

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