Developmental plasticity of cardiac anoxia-tolerance in juvenile common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina)

Ilan Ruhr, Heather McCourty, Afaf Bajjig, Dane A. Crossley , Holly Shiels, Gina Galli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For some species of ectothermic vertebrates, early exposure to hypoxia during embryonic development improves hypoxia-tolerance later in life. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are largely unknown. Given that hypoxic survival is critically dependent on the maintenance of cardiac function, we tested the hypothesis that developmental hypoxia alters cardiomyocyte physiology in a manner that protects the heart from hypoxic stress. To test this hypothesis, we studied the common snapping turtle, which routinely experiences chronic developmental hypoxia and exploits hypoxic environments in adulthood. We isolated cardiomyocytes from juvenile turtles that embryonically developed in either normoxia (21% O2) or hypoxia (10% O2), and subjected them to simulated anoxia and reoxygenation, while simultaneously measuring intracellular Ca2+, pH, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Our results suggest developmental hypoxia improves cardiomyocyte anoxia-tolerance of juvenile turtles, which is supported by enhanced myofilament Ca2+-sensitivity and a superior ability to suppress ROS production. Maintenance of low ROS levels during anoxia might limit oxidative damage and a greater sensitivity to Ca2+ could provide a mechanism to maintain contractile force. Our study suggests developmental hypoxia has long-lasting effects on turtle cardiomyocyte function, which might prime their physiology for exploiting hypoxic environments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019


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