Effect of low pH exposure on Na+ regulation in two cichlid fish species of the Amazon

Rafael M. Duarte, Marcio S. Ferreira, Chris M. Wood, Adalberto L. Val

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We evaluated the effects of acute exposure to low pH on Na+ regulation in two Amazon cichlids collected from natural ion-poor "blackwaters", angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) and discus (Symphysodon discus). Na+ uptake kinetic parameters, unidirectional Na+ fluxes, and net Cl- fluxes were determined at pH6.0 and 3.6. At pH6.0, both species presented low unidirectional Na+ flux rates, with kinetics showing a relatively low affinity for Na+ (angelfish Km=79, discus Km=268μmolL-1), with similar maximum transport capacities (Jmax~535nmolg-1h-1). Overall, there appeared to be high sensitivity to inhibition by low pH, yet low intrinsic branchial permeability limiting diffusive ion effluxes, resulting in relatively low net loss rates of Na+, the same strategy as seen previously in other blackwater cichlids, and very different from the strategy of blackwater characids. At low pH, Na+ uptake in angelfish was inhibited competitively (increased Km=166μmolL-1) and non-competitively (decreased Jmax=106nmolg-1h-1), whereas in discus, only a decrease in Jmax (112nmolg-1h-1) was statistically significant. An acute reduction in H+-ATPase activity, but not in Na+/K+-ATPase activity, in the gills of angelfish suggests a possible mechanism for this non-competitive inhibition at low pH. Discus fish were more tolerant to low pH than angelfish, as seen by lesser effects of exposure to pH3.6 on unidirectional Na+ uptake and efflux rates and net Na+ and Cl- loss rates. Overall, discus are better than angelfish in maintaining ionic balance under acidic, ion-poor conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-448
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Branchial H-ATPase activity
  • Intrinsic branchial permeability
  • Na unidirectional fluxes
  • Na uptake kinetics
  • Non-competitive inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


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