Hypoxia modifies calcium handling in the Pacific hagfish, Eptatretus stoutii

Chris N. Glover, Greg G. Goss

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Hagfishes may encounter low dissolved oxygen in their natural habitats, a consequence of association with hypoxic sediments and their feeding behaviour. In teleost fish, hypoxia exposure decreases ion uptake, speculated to be a mechanism for energy conservation. Although hagfishes osmoconform, they do regulate extracellular fluid concentrations of divalent cations such as calcium. The current study hypothesised that exposure of hagfish to hypoxia (0.4 kPA, 24 h) would reduce calcium uptake (determined via in vitro isolated skin and gut epithelial transport assays) and calcium accumulation (determined by in vivo whole animal exposures, using radiolabelled calcium (45Ca) to assess newly acquired calcium). A decrease in in vitro epidermal uptake was observed at sub-environmental calcium levels (10 μM), but not at environmental calcium levels (10 mM). No changes in gut calcium uptake were determined. Conversely, hypoxia led to a more rapid in vivo accumulation of calcium in tissues (skin, muscle, liver, heart, plasma, brain), mediated mostly by a significant increase in accumulation at the gill. These differences were only apparent after 1-h of exposure to the radiolabel (i.e., the last hour of the 24-h hypoxia exposure) and were not observed after 3 and 24 h periods of radiolabel exposure. This outcome was the opposite of the hypothesised effect. The reasons for a more rapid accumulation of calcium in hypoxic hagfish are unknown but may relate to roles for calcium in enhancing hypoxia tolerance in hagfishes or could be a consequence of changes in ventilatory frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111042
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology -Part A : Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Publication statusPublished - Nov. 2021


  • Agnathan
  • Anoxia
  • Brain
  • Epithelial transport
  • Ion regulation


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