Regulation of amino acid metabolism as a defensive strategy in the brain of three freshwater teleosts in response to high environmental ammonia exposureRegulation of amino acid metabolism as a defensive strategy in the brain of three freshwater teleosts in response to high environmental ammonia exposure
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Research group
Integrated Molecular Plant Physiology Research (IMPRES)
Systemic Physiological and Ecotoxicological Research (SPHERE)
Molecular Plant Physiology and Biotechnology
Publication type
Pharmacology. Therapy
Source (journal)
Aquatic toxicology. - Amsterdam
130(2013), p. 86-96
Target language
English (eng)
Full text (Publishers DOI)
University of Antwerp
Many teleosts have evolved mechanisms to cope with ammonia toxicity in the brain when confronted with high environmental ammonia (HEA). In the present study, the possible role of conversion of accumulated ammonia to glutamine and other free amino acids in the brain of three freshwater teleosts differing in their sensitivities to ammonia was investigated. The detoxification mode of ammonia in brain is suggested to be through amination of glutamate to glutamine by the coupled activities of glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH), transaminase (aspartate aminotransaminase AST and alanine aminotransaminase ALT) and glutamine synthetase (GSase). We investigated the metabolic response of amino acids in the brain of highly sensitive salmonid Oncorhynchus mykiss (rainbow trout), the less sensitive cyprinid Cyprinus carpio (common carp) and the highly resistant cyprinid Carassius auratus (goldfish) when exposed to 1 mM ammonia (as NH4HCO3; pH 7.9) for 0 h (control), 3 h, 12 h, 24 h, 48 h, 84 h and 180 h. Results show that HEA exposure increased ammonia accumulation significantly in the brain of all the three species from 12 h onwards. Unlike in trout, ammonia accumulation in carp and goldfish was restored to control levels (4884 h); which was accompanied with a significant increase in glutamine content as well as GSase activity. In trout, glutamine levels also increased (84180 h) but GSase was not activated. The elevated glutamine level in trout was accompanied by a significant depletion of the glutamate pool in contrast to the stable glutamate levels seen in carp and goldfish. This suggests a simultaneous increase in the rate of glutamate formation to match with the demand of glutamine formation in cyprinids. The activity of GDH was elevated significantly in carp and goldfish but remained unaltered in trout. Also, the transaminase enzymes (AST and ALT) were elevated significantly in exposed carp and goldfish while only ALT was up-regulated in trout. Consequently, in carp and goldfish both aspartate and alanine were utilized under HEA, whereas only alanine was consumed in trout. With ammonia treatment, significant changes in concentrations of other amino acids also occurred. None of the species could detoxify brain ammonia into urea. This study suggests that protective strategies to combat ammonia toxicity in brain are more pronounced in carp and goldfish than in trout.