Rh glycoprotein expression is modulated in pufferfish (Takifugu rubripes) during high environmental ammonia exposure

C. Michele Nawata, Shigehisa Hirose, Tsutomu Nakada, Chris M. Wood, Akira Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Rhesus (Rh) protein involvement in ammonia transport processes in freshwater fish has received considerable attention; however, parallel investigations in seawater species are scant. We exposed pufferfish to high environmental ammonia (HEA; 1 and 5?mmol?l-1 NH4HCO 3) and evaluated the patterns of ammonia excretion and gill Rh mRNA and protein expression. Gill H+- ATPase, NHE1, NHE2, NHE3, Na+/K +-ATPase (NKA), Na+/K+/2Cl- co-transporter (NKCC1) mRNA, H+-ATPase activity, NKA protein and activity, were also quantified. Activation of NKA by NH4 + was demonstrated in vitro. The downregulation of Rhbg mRNA and simultaneous upregulations of Rhcg1, H+-ATPase, NHE3, NKA, NKCC1 mRNA, H +-ATPase activity, and NKA protein and activity levels suggested that during HEA, ammonia excretion was mediated mainly by mitochondria-rich cells (MRCs) driven by NKA with basolateral NH4 + entry via NKA and/or NKCC1, and apical NH3 extrusion via Rhcg1. Reprotonation of NH3 by NHE3 and/or H+- ATPase would minimise back flux through the Rh channels. Downregulated Rhbg and Rhag mRNA observed in the gill during HEA suggests a coordinated protective response to minimise the influx of external ammonia via the pavement cells and pillar cells, respectively, while routing ammonia excretion through the MRCs. Exposure to hypercapnia (1% CO 2 in air) resulted in downregulated gill and erythrocyte Rhag mRNA. Surprisingly, Rhag, Rhbg, Rhcg1 and Rhcg2 proteins responded to both hypercapnia and HEA with changes in their apparent molecular masses. A dual NH 3/CO2 transport function of the pufferfish Rh proteins is therefore suggested. The results support and extend an earlier proposed model of pufferfish gill ammonia excretion that was based on immunolocalisation of the Rh proteins. Passive processes and/or Rhbg and Rhcg2 in the pavement cells may maintain basal levels of plasma ammonia but elevated levels may require active excretion via NKA and Rhcg1 in the MRCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3150-3160
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Ammonia transport
  • Fugu
  • Gills
  • H-ATPase
  • Na/K -ATPase
  • NHE3
  • NKCC1
  • Rhesus proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Insect Science
  • Aquatic Science


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