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Elevated carboxyhemoglobin in a marine mammal, the northern elephant seal

TitleElevated carboxyhemoglobin in a marine mammal, the northern elephant seal
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsTift M.S, Ponganis P.J, Crocker D.E
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Date Published2014/04
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-0949
Accession NumberWOS:000338517700019
KeywordsAerobic dive limit; apneas; blood-oxygen depletion; Calculated aerobic dive limit; carbon monoxide; carbon monoxide production; Hemoglobin absorption; hemolytic-anemia; hyperbilirubinemia; Marine mammal; mirounga-angustirostris; neonatal; nitric-oxide; oxidative stress; Oxygen stores; rest-associated; spectra; weddell seals

Low concentrations of endogenous carbon monoxide (CO), generated primarily through degradation of heme from hemeproteins, have been shown to maintain physiological function of organs and to exert cytoprotective effects. However, high concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), formed by CO binding to hemoglobin, potentially prevent adequate O-2 delivery to tissues by lowering arterial O-2 content. Elevated heme-protein concentrations, as found in marine mammals, are likely associated with greater heme degradation, more endogenous CO production and, consequently, elevated COHb concentrations. Therefore, we measured COHb in elephant seals, a species with large blood volumes and elevated hemoglobin and myoglobin concentrations. The levels of COHb were positively related to the total hemoglobin concentration. The maximum COHb value was 10.4% of total hemoglobin concentration. The mean (+/- s.e.m.) value in adult seals was 8.7 +/- 0.3% (N=6), while juveniles and pups (with lower heme-protein contents) had lower mean COHb values of 7.6 +/- 0.2% and 7.1 +/- 0.3%, respectively (N=9 and N=9, respectively). Serial samples over several hours revealed little to no fluctuation in COHb values. This consistent elevation in COHb suggests that the magnitude and/ or rate of heme-protein turnover is much higher than in terrestrial mammals. The maximum COHb values from this study decrease total body O-2 stores by 7%, thereby reducing the calculated aerobic dive limit for this species. However, the constant presence of elevated CO in blood may also protect against potential ischemia-reperfusion injury associated with the extreme breath-holds of elephant seals. We suggest the elephant seal represents an ideal model for understanding the potential cytoprotective effects, mechanisms of action and evolutionary adaptation associated with chronically elevated concentrations of endogenously produced CO.

Short TitleJ. Exp. Biol.
Student Publication: