Salmon get a major athletic boost via a single enzyme

June 04, 2019

Salmon species, known for undertaking arduous upstream migrations, appear to owe a good deal of their athletic ability to the presence of a single enzyme.

New research indicates that plasma-accessible carbonic anhydrase (paCA)--an enzyme anchored to the walls of salmons' blood vessels--helps reduce how hard their hearts have to work during exercise by up to 27 per cent.

"Salmon species get one shot at reproduction, and we know cardiovascular performance can be a limiting factor during migration," says zoologist Till Harter, who led the study while a researcher at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

"It appears paCA plays a key role in enhancing the animal's ability to extract oxygen from their blood, making salmon great aerobic athletes and giving them a much-needed edge during migration."

The researchers also found the paCA enzyme kicked in when the fish were exposed to low water oxygen levels--hypoxia--and helped the salmon recover faster from exercise.

"Like hypoxia, increases in water temperature are also thought to limit aerobic performance," says UBC researcher Colin Brauner, senior author on the paper.

"If elevated temperature recruits paCA like hypoxia does, there may be levels at which fish can acclimate and be better prepared to deal with elevated temperatures associated with climate change."

Working with Kurt Gamperl and other collaborators at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, the team placed Atlantic Salmon in swim tunnels with adjustable water flow--basically creating a treadmill for fish. They then inhibited the function of paCA in some fish, and measured the enzyme's impact on cardiovascular function. In some instances, Atlantic Salmon were unable to swim against strong water flow altogether when paCA was inhibited.

The study--published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B--is the first to measure the role of paCA during exercise in fish, and the first to assess it in free-swimming animals.

While focused on Atlantic salmon, the results may also apply to other salmonids (including Pacific salmon) and even more broadly to teleosts (bony fishes).

"Whether other teleosts species also take advantage of this mechanism still needs to be formally tested," says Harter, now with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

"But if substantiated by future work, the implications could be tremendous--teleosts make up nearly half of all vertebrate species and the vast majority of fish species."
-end-


University of British Columbia

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.