The effects of urea, cations (K+, NH4, Na+, Cs+, Li+), and trimethylamines on the maximal activities and kinetic properties of pyruvate kinase (PK) and phosphofructokinase (PFK) from skeletal muscle, were analyzed in two anuran amphibians, an estivating species, the spadefoot toad Scaphiopus couchii, and a semi-aquatic species, the leopard frog Rana pipiens. Urea, which accumulates naturally to levels of 200-300 mM during estivation in toads, had only minor effects on the Vmax, kinetic constants and pH curves of PK from either species and no effects on PFK Vmax or kinetic constants. Trimethylamine oxide neither affected enzyme activity directly or changed enzyme response to urea. By contrast, high KCl (200 mM) lowered the Vmax of toad PFK and of PK from both species and altered the Km values for both substrates of frog PFK. Other cations were even more inhibitory; for example, the Vmax of PK from either species was reduced by more than 80% by the addition of 200 mM NH4Cl, NaCl, CsCi, or LiCl. High KCl also significantly changed the Km values for substrates of toad lactate dehydrogenase and strongly reduced the Vmax of glutamate dehydrogenase and NAD-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase in both species whereas 300 mM urea had relatively little effect on these enzymes. The perturbing effect of urea on enzymes and the counteracting effect of trimethylamines that has been reported for elasmobranch fishes (that maintain high concentrations of both solutes naturally) does not appear to apply to amphibian enzymes. Rather, we found that urea is largely a non-perturbing solute for anuran enzymes (I50 values were>1 M for both PK and PFK in both species) and we propose that its accumulation in high concentrations during estivation helps to minimize the increase in cellular ionic strength that would otherwise occur during desiccation and to alleviate the accompanying negative effects of high salt on individual enzyme activities and overall metabolic regulation.

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Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
Department of Biology

Grundy, J.E. (Jean E.), & Storey, K. (1994). Urea and salt effects on enzymes from estivating and non-estivating amphibians. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 131(1), 9–17. doi:10.1007/BF01075719