Acclimation to prolonged aquatic hypercarbia or air enhances hemoglobin‑oxygen affinity in an amphibious fish

Tunnah, Louise, et al. “Acclimation to Prolonged Aquatic Hypercarbia or Air Enhances Hemoglobin‑oxygen Affinity in an Amphibious Fish.” Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Elsevier BV, Feb. 2021, p. 110848. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.cbpa.2020.110848.


When the amphibious mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus) leaves water for extended periods, hemoglobin-O2 binding affinity increases. We tested the hypothesis that the change in affinity was a consequence of hemoglobin isoform switching driven by exposure to environments associated with increased internal CO2 levels. We exposed K. marmoratus to either water (control, pH 8.1), air, aquatic hypercarbia (5.1 kPa CO2, pH 6.6-6.8), or aquatic acid (isocarbic control, pH 6.6-6.8), for 7 days, and measured hemoglobin-O2 affinity spectrophotometrically. We found that mangrove rivulus compensated for elevated CO2 and aquatic acid exposure by shifting hemoglobin-O2 affinity back to aquatic (control) levels when measured at an ecologically-relevant high CO2 level that would be experienced in vivo. Using proteomics, we found that the hemoglobin subunits present in the blood did not change between treatments, but air and aquatic acid exposure altered the abundance of cathodic hemoglobin subunits. We therefore conclude that hemoglobin isoform switching is not a primary strategy used by mangrove rivulus to adjust P50 under these conditions. Abundances of other RBC proteins also differed between treatment groups relative to control fish (e.g. Rhesus protein type A, band 3 anion exchanger). Overall, our data indicate that both aquatic hypercarbia and aquatic acidosis create similar changes in hemoglobin-O2 affinity as air exposure. However, the protein-level consequences differ between these groups, indicating that the red blood cell response of mangrove rivulus can be modulated depending on the environmental cue received.