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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Nov;1830(11):4990-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2013.06.034. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Anoxia-responsive regulation of the FoxO transcription factors in freshwater turtles, Trachemys scripta elegans.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada. Electronic address:



The forkhead class O (FoxO) transcription factors are important regulators of multiple aspects of cellular metabolism. We hypothesized that activation of these transcription factors could play crucial roles in low oxygen survival in the anoxia-tolerant turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans.


Two FoxOs, FoxO1 and FoxO3, were examined in turtle tissues in response to 5 and 20h of anoxic submergence using techniques of RT-PCR, western immunoblotting and DNA-binding assays to assess activation. Transcript levels of FoxO-responsive genes were also quantified using RT-PCR.


FoxO1 was anoxia-responsive in the liver, with increases in transcript levels, protein levels, nuclear levels and DNA-binding of 1.7-4.8fold in response to anoxia. Levels of phosphorylated FoxO1 also decreased to 57% of control values in response to 5h of anoxia, indicating activation. FoxO3 was activated in the heart, kidney and liver in response to anoxia, with nuclear levels increasing by 1.5-3.7fold and DNA-binding activity increasing by 1.3-2.9fold. Transcript levels of two FoxO-target genes, p27kip1 and catalase, also rose by 2.4-2.5fold in the turtle liver under anoxia.


The results suggest that the FoxO transcription factors are activated in response to anoxia in T. scripta elegans, potentially contributing to the regulation of stress resistance and metabolic depression.


This study provides the first demonstration of activation of FoxOs in a natural model for vertebrate anoxia tolerance, further improving understanding of how tissues can survive without oxygen.


Anoxia; Catalase; Forkhead box O; Metabolic depression; Red-eared slider; p27kip1

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