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Embryos of the annual killifish Austrofundulus limnaeus can survive for months in the complete absence of oxygen. Survival of anoxia is associated with entry into a state of metabolic dormancy known as diapause. However, extreme tolerance of anoxia is retained for several days of post-diapause development. Rates of heat dissipation in diapause II and 4 days post-diapause II embryos were measured under aerobic conditions and during the transition into anoxia. Phosphorylated adenylate compounds were quantified in embryos during entry into anoxia and after 12hr of aerobic recovery. Rates of heat dissipation were not affected by exposure to anoxia in diapause II embryos, while post-diapause II embryos experienced a profound decrease in heat dissipation. ATP decreased substantially in both developmental stages upon exposure to anoxia, and all indicators of cellular energetic status indicated energetic stress, at least based on the mammalian paradigm. The rate of decline in ATP is the most acute reported for any vertebrate. The mechanisms responsible for cellular survival despite a clear dysregulation between energy production and energy consumption remain to be identified. Necrotic and apoptotic cell death in response to hypoxia contribute to poor survival during many diseases and pathological conditions in mammals. Understanding the mechanisms that are in place to prevent maladaptive cell death in embryos of A. limnaeus may greatly improve treatment strategies in diseases that involve hypoxia and reperfusion injuries. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology

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