Digestion under duress: Nutrient acquisition and metabolism during hypoxia in the Pacific hagfish

Carol Bucking, Chris N. Glover, Chris M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Hagfish feed by immersing themselves in the body cavities of decaying animals. This ensures a rich nutrient source for absorption via the gills, skin, and gut, but it may also subject hagfish to reduced levels of dissolved oxygen and elevated levels of the products of biological degradation. This study investigated the impacts of hypoxia and ammonia on the assimilation and metabolism of selected nutrients (glycine, l-alanine, and glucose) in Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii). Throughout exposure to hypoxia, plasma glucose levels increased. This was not accompanied by an increase in gut glucose transport, which suggests mobilization of glucose from body glycogen stores. Hypoxia preexposure enhanced glycine absorption across the gut and the gill, although l-alanine uptake was unchanged in these tissues. A 24-h period of exposure to hypoxia in hagfish concurrently exposed to waterborne radio-labeled glycine led to a large (5.7-fold) increase in brain glycine accumulation. Preexposure to high levels of waterborne ammonia (10 mM) for 24 h had no impact on gut or skin glycine uptake. These results indicate that hagfish are adapted to maintain nutrient assimilation despite environmental stressors and that tissuespecific absorption of key nutrients such as glycine can even be enhanced in order to sustain critical functions during hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-617
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov. 2011


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