Background: Cephalopods have evolved strong acid-base regulatory abilities to cope with CO2 induced pH fluctuations in their extracellular compartments to protect gas transport via highly pH sensitive hemocyanins. To date, the mechanistic basis of branchial acid-base regulation in cephalopods is still poorly understood, and associated energetic limitations may represent a critical factor in high power squids during prolonged exposure to seawater acidification.Results: The present work used adult squid Sepioteuthis lessoniana to investigate the effects of short-term (few hours) to medium-term (up to 168 h) seawater acidification on pelagic squids. Routine metabolic rates, NH4 + excretion, extracellular acid-base balance were monitored during exposure to control (pH 8.1) and acidified conditions of pH 7.7 and 7.3 along a period of 168 h. Metabolic rates were significantly depressed by 40% after exposure to pH 7.3 conditions for 168 h. Animals fully restored extracellular pH accompanied by an increase in blood HCO3 - levels within 20 hours. This compensation reaction was accompanied by increased transcript abundance of branchial acid-base transporters including V-type H+-ATPase (VHA), Rhesus protein (RhP), Na+/HCO3 - cotransporter (NBC) and cytosolic carbonic anhydrase (CAc). Immunocytochemistry demonstrated the sub-cellular localization of Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA), VHA in basolateral and Na+/H+-exchanger 3 (NHE3) and RhP in apical membranes of the ion-transporting branchial epithelium. Branchial VHA and RhP responded with increased mRNA and protein levels in response to acidified conditions indicating the importance of active NH4 + transport to mediate acid-base balance in cephalopods.Conclusion: The present work demonstrated that cephalopods have a well developed branchial acid-base regulatory machinery. However, pelagic squids that evolved a lifestyle at the edge of energetic limits are probably more sensitive to prolonged exposure to acidified conditions compared to their more sluggish relatives including cuttlefish and octopods.
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