Is warmer better? Decreased oxidative damage in notothenioid fish after long-term acclimation to multiple stressors

Antarctic fish of the suborder Notothenioidei have evolved several unique adaptations to deal with subzero temperatures. However, these adaptations may come with physiological trade-offs, such as
an increased susceptibility to oxidative damage. As such, the expected environmental perturbations brought on by global climate change have the potential to significantly increase the level of
oxidative stress and cellular damage in these endemic fish. Previous single stressor studies of the notothenioids have shown they possess the capacity to acclimate to increased temperatures, but the cellularlevel effects remain largely unknown. Additionally, there is little information on the ability of Antarctic fish to respond to ecologically relevant environmental changes where multiple variables change concomitantly. We have examined the potential synergistic effects that increased temperature and ṖCO2 have on the level of protein damage in Trematomus bernacchii, Pagothenia borchgrevinki and Trematomus newnesi, and combined these measurements with changes in total enzymatic activity of catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) in order to gauge tissue-specific changes in antioxidant capacity. Our findings indicate that total SOD and CAT activity levels displayed only small changes across treatments and tissues. Short-term acclimation to decreased seawater pH and increased temperature resulted in significant increases in oxidative damage. Surprisingly, despite no significant change in antioxidant capacity, cellular damage returned to near-basal levels, and significantly decreased in T. bernacchii, after long-term acclimation. Overall, these data suggest that notothenioid fish currently maintain the antioxidant capacity necessary to offset predicted future ocean conditions, but it remains unclear whether this capacity comes with physiological trade-offs.

Enzor L. A. & Place S. P., 2014. Is warmer better? Decreased oxidative damage in notothenioid fish after long-term acclimation to multiple stressors. The Journal of Experimental Biology 217:3301-3310. Article (subscription required).

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