The freshwater turtle Trachemys scripta elegans naturally tolerates extended periods of anoxia during winter hibernation at the bottom of ice-locked ponds. Survival in this anoxic state is facilitated by a profound depression of metabolic rate. As calcium levels are known to be elevated in anoxic turtles, and ion pumping is an ATP-expensive process, we proposed that activity of the sarcoendoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) would be reduced in muscle and liver of T. s. elegans during acute (up to 20 h) exposure to anoxia. SERCA activity decreased ∼30% in liver and ∼40% in muscle after 1 h anoxia exposure and was ∼50% lower after 20 h of anoxia exposure in both tissues, even though SERCA protein levels did not change. SERCA kinetic parameters (increased substrate Km values, increased Arrhenius activation energy) were indicative of a less active enzyme form under anoxic conditions. Interestingly, the less active SERCA in anoxic turtles featured greater stability than the enzyme from normoxic animals as determined by both kinetic analysis (effect of low pH and low temperatures on Km MgATP) and conformational resistance to urea denaturation. The quick time course of deactivation and the stable changes in kinetic parameters that resulted suggested that SERCA was regulated by a post-translational mechanism. In vitro experiments indicated that SERCA activity could be blunted by protein phosphorylation and enhanced by dephosphorylation in a tissue-specific manner.

, , , ,
Journal of Experimental Biology
Department of Biology

Ramnanan, C.J., McMullen, D.C., Bielecki, A., & Storey, K. (2010). Regulation of sarcoendoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) in turtle muscle and liver during acute exposure to anoxia. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213(1), 17–25. doi:10.1242/jeb.036087