New insights into ion regulation of cephalopod molluscs: A role of epidermal ionocytes in acid-base regulation during embryogenesis

Marian Y. Hu, Yung Che Tseng, Li Yih Lin, Po Yen Chen, Mireille Charmantier-Daures, Pung Pung Hwang*, Frank Melzner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The constraints of an active life in a pelagic habitat led to numerous convergent morphological and physiological adaptations that enable cephalopod molluscs and teleost fishes to compete for similar resources. Here, we show for the first time that such convergent developments are also found in the ontogenetic progression of ion regulatory tissues; as in teleost fish, epidermal ionocytes scattered on skin and yolk sac of cephalopod embryos appear to be responsible for ionic and acid-base regulation before gill epithelia become functional. Ion and acid-base regulation is crucial in cephalopod embryos, as they are surrounded by a hypercapnic egg fluid with a PCO 2 between 0.2 and 0.4 kPa. Epidermal ionocytes were characterized via immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and vital dye-staining techniques. We found one group of cells that is recognized by concavalin A and MitoTracker, which also expresses Na +/H + exchangers (NHE3) and Na +-K +-ATPase. Similar to findings obtained in teleosts, these NHE3-rich cells take up sodium in exchange for protons, illustrating the energetic superiority of NHE-based proton excretion in marine systems. In vivo electrophysiological techniques demonstrated that acid equivalents are secreted by the yolk and skin integument. Intriguingly, epidermal ionocytes of cephalopod embryos are ciliated as demonstrated by scanning electron microscopy, suggesting a dual function of epithelial cells in water convection and ion regulation. These findings add significant knowledge to our mechanistic understanding of hypercapnia tolerance in marine organisms, as it demonstrates that marine taxa, which were identified as powerful acid-base regulators during hypercapnic challenges, already exhibit strong acid-base regulatory abilities during embryogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1700-1709
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec


  • Cuttlefish
  • Embryonic development
  • Gill
  • Mitochondrion-rich cells
  • Squid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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