Perfused gills reveal fundamental principles of pH regulation and ammonia homeostasis in the cephalopod Octopus vulgaris

Marian Y. Hu, Po Hsuan Sung, Ying Jey Guh, Jay Ron Lee, Pung Pung Hwang, Dirk Weihrauch, Yung Che Tseng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In contrast to terrestrial animals most aquatic species can be characterized by relatively higher blood NH4+ concentrations despite its potential toxicity to the central nervous system. Although many aquatic species excrete NH4+ via specialized epithelia little information is available regarding the mechanistic basis for NH3/NH4+ homeostasis in molluscs. Using perfused gills of Octopus vulgaris we studied acid-base regulation and ammonia excretion pathways in this cephalopod species. The octopus gill is capable of regulating ammonia (NH3/NH4+) homeostasis by the accumulation of ammonia at low blood levels (< 260 μM) and secretion at blood ammonia concentrations exceeding in vivo levels of 300 μM. NH4+ transport is sensitive to the adenylyl cyclase inhibitor KH7 indicating that this process is mediated through cAMP-dependent pathways. The perfused octopus gill has substantial pH regulatory abilities during an acidosis, accompanied by an increased secretion of NH4+. Immunohistochemical and qPCR analyses revealed tissue specific expression and localization of Na+/K+-ATPase, V-type H+-ATPase, Na+/H+-exchanger 3, and Rhesus protein in the gill. Using the octopus gill as a molluscan model, our results highlight the coupling of acid-base regulation and nitrogen excretion, which may represent a conserved pH regulatory mechanism across many marine taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number162
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 20


  • Acid-base regulation
  • Cephalopod
  • Invertebrate
  • NH3/NH4 homeostasis
  • Na/K-ATPase
  • Rh-protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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