The effects of sustained anoxia on cardiac electrical excitability were examined in the anoxia-tolerant Crucian carp (Carassius carassius). The electrocardiogram (ECG) and expression of excitation-contraction coupling genes were studied in fish acclimatised to normoxia in summer (+18°C) or winter (+2°C), and in winter fish after 1, 3 and 6 weeks of anoxia. Anoxia induced a sustained bradycardia from a heart rate of 10.3±0.77 to 4.1±0.29 bpm (P<0.05) after 5 weeks, and heart rate slowly recovered to control levels when oxygen was restored. Heart rate variability greatly increased under anoxia, and completely recovered under re-oxygenation. The RT interval increased from 2.8±0.34 s in normoxia to 5.8±0.44 s under anoxia (P<0.05), which reflects a doubling of the ventricular action potential (AP) duration. Acclimatisation to winter induced extensive changes in gene expression relative to summer-acclimatised fish, including depression in those coding for the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium pump (Serca2-q2) and ATP-sensitive K+ channels (Kir6.2) (P<0.05). Genes of delayed rectifier K+ (kcnh6) and Ca2+ channels (cacna1c) were up-regulated in winter fish (P<0.05). In contrast, the additional challenge of anoxia caused only minor changes in gene expression, e.g. depressed expression of Kir2.2b K+ channel gene (kcnj12b), whereas expression of Ca2+ (cacna1a, -c and –g) and Na+ channel genes (scn4a and scn5a) were not affected. These data suggest that low temperature pre-conditions the Crucian carp heart for winter anoxia, whereas sustained anoxic bradycardia and prolongation of AP duration are directly induced by oxygen shortage without major changes in gene expression.
- Received June 23, 2016.
- Accepted November 15, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd