Developmental Plasticity of Mitochondrial Function in American Alligators, Alligator mississippiensis

Gina Galli, Janna Crossley, Ruth M Elsey, Edward M Dzialowski, Holly Shiels, Dane A Crossley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of hypoxia on cellular metabolism is well-documented in adult vertebrates but information is entirely lacking for embryonic organisms. The effect of hypoxia on embryonic physiology is particularly interesting, as metabolic responses during development may have life-long consequences, due to developmental plasticity. To this end, we investigated the effects of chronic developmental hypoxia on cardiac mitochondrial function in embryonic and juvenile American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). Alligator eggs were incubated in 21% or 10% oxygen from 20-90% of embryonic development. Embryos were either harvested at 90% development or allowed to hatch and then reared in 21% oxygen for 3 years. Ventricular mitochondria were isolated from embryonic/juvenile alligator hearts. Mitochondrial respiration and enzymatic activities of electron transport chain Complexes were measured with a microrespirometer and spectrophotometer, respectively. Developmental hypoxia induced growth restriction and increased relative heart mass, and this phenotype persisted into juvenile life. Embryonic mitochondrial function was not affected by developmental hypoxia, but at the juvenile life stage, animals from hypoxic incubations had lower levels of leak respiration and higher respiratory control ratios, which is indicative of enhanced mitochondrial efficiency. Our results suggest developmental hypoxia can have life-long consequences for alligator morphology and metabolic function. Further investigations are necessary to reveal the adaptive significance of the enhanced mitochondrial efficiency in the hypoxic phenotype.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Phsyiology
Issue number6
Early online date5 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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