Seasonal- and temperature-dependent variation in CNS ascorbate and glutathione levels in anoxia-tolerant turtles

Miguel A. Pérez-Pinzón, Margaret E. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We determined the ascorbic acid (ascorbate) and glutathione (GSH) contents of eight regions of the CNS from anoxia-tolerant turtles collected in summer and in winter. Ascorbate was of special interest because it is found in exceptionally high levels in the turtle CNS. The temperature-dependence of CNS ascorbate content was established by comparing levels in animals collected from two geographic zones with different average winter temperatures and in animals re-acclimated to different temperatures in the laboratory. The analytical method was liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Turtle ascorbate levels were 30-40% lower in animals acclimatized to winter (2°C) than to summer (23°C) in all regions of the CNS. Similarly, GSH levels were 20-30% lower in winter than in summer. Winter ascorbate levels were higher in turtles from Louisiana (19°C) than in turtles acclimatized to winter in Wisconsin (2°C). Summer and winter levels of ascorbate could be reversed by re-acclimating animals to cold (1°C) or warm (23°C) temperatures for at least one week. CNS water content did not differ between cold- and warm-acclimated turtles. Taken together, the data indicated that ascorbate and GSH undergo significant seasonal variation and that the catalyst for change is environmental temperature. Steady-state ascorbate content showed a linear dependence on temperature, with a slope of 1.5% per °C that was independent of CNS region. Lower levels of cerebral antioxidants in turtles exposed to colder temperatures were consistent with the decreased rate of cerebral metabolism that accompanies winter hibernation. Cerebral ascorbate and GSH levels in the turtle remained similar to or higher than those in mammals, even during winter, however. These findings support the notion that unique mechanisms of antioxidant regulation in the turtle contribute to their tolerance of the hypoxia-reoxygenation that characterizes diving behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 24 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Ascorbic acid
  • Free radical
  • Glutathione
  • Ischemia
  • Metabolism
  • Rat
  • Temperature
  • Turtle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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