Branchial osmoregulation in the euryhaline bull shark

Published on 01 September 2011

Branchial osmoregulation in the euryhaline bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas: a molecular analysis of ion transporters

Beau D. Reilly, Rebecca L. Cramp, Jonathan M. Wilson, Hamish A. Campbell and Craig E. Franklin.


Bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, are one of only a few species of elasmobranchs that live in both marine and freshwater environments. Osmoregulation in euryhaline elasmobranchs is achieved through the control and integration of various organs (kidney, rectal gland and liver) in response to changes in environmental salinity. However, little is known regarding the mechanisms of ion transport in the gills of euryhaline elasmobranchs and how they are affected by osmoregulatory challenges. This study was conducted to gain insight into the branchial ion and acid-base regulatory mechanisms of C. leucas by identifying putative ion transporters and determining whether their expression is influenced by environmental salinity. We hypothesised that expression levels of the Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA) pump, Na+/H+ exchanger 3 (NHE3), vacuolar-type H+-ATPase (VHA) and anion exchanger pendrin (PDN) would be upregulated in freshwater (FW) C. leucas. Immunohistochemistry was used to localise all four ion transporters in gills of bull sharks captured in both FW and estuarine/seawater (EST/SW) environments. NHE3 immunoreactivity occurred in the apical region of cells with basolateral NKA expression whereas PDN was apically expressed in cells that also exhibited basolateral VHA immunoreactivity. In accordance with our hypotheses, quantitative real-time PCR showed that the mRNA expression of NHE3 and NKA was significantly upregulated in gills of FW-captured C. leucas relative to EST/SW-captured animals. These data suggest that NHE3 and NKA together may be important in mediating branchial Na+ uptake in freshwater environments, whereas PDN and VHA might contribute to Cl/HCO3 transport in marine and freshwater bull shark gills.

The Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 2883-2895.



Leave a Reply