Living with high concentrations of urea: They can!

Published in Jan 2012

Francesca Trischitta, Caterina Faggio, Agata Torre


Marine elasmobranchs maintain their body fluid isoosmotic or slightly hyperosmotic to the external medium by the retention of large urea concentrations. This review focuses on the strategies adopted by these fishes to maintain a large outwardly direct concentration gradient of this osmolyte minimizing the loss across the main interfaces between body fluid and the external medium such as the gills, the kidney and the rectal gland, thus reducing the cost of making urea. The high plasma osmolarity, mainly maintained by urea retention, is a challenge to volume homeostasis when fish move from seawater to water with a low salinity, since the high water permeability of branchial epithelium would cause a net flux of water into the animal. Since the renal regulation of urea retention in habitat with different salinities is crucial for the osmotic homeostasis of these species, the regulation of the activity and/or the expression of urea transporters in renal tubules will be also discussed. In addition attention will be paid on the ureamethylamine system involved in maintaining the stability and functioning of many proteins since it is known that the high urea concentration found in marine elasmobranch fish, similar only to that found in mammalian kidney, has a destabilizing effect on many macromolecules and inhibits functions such as ligand binding.

Open Journal of Animal Sciences – Vol.2 No.1, January 2012; DOI: 10.4236/ojas.2012.21005 .




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