Polar bivalves are characterized by high antioxidant defences

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Camus, Lionel ; Gulliksen, Bjørn ; Depledge, Michael H. ; Jones, Malcolm B. (2005)

Inevitably, aerobic life leads to the formation of deleterious reactive oxygen species (ROS) which participate in biomolecule oxidation, hence augmenting biomolecule turnover. Organisms have adapted to counteract the noxious effects of ROS by developing a battery of antioxidant defences (AOX) which comprise enzymes and low-molecular weight scavengers. Past studies have reported elevated AOX levels in polar pectinid bivalves compared with temperate congeners. This fi nding is controversial as mitochondrial ROS generation is low in polar versus temperate species, and, to date, there is no generally accepted explanation of the causes of increased basal AOX levels in polar waters. We suggest that the low food availability in those ecosystems may result in polar marine ectotherms diverting some energy into the maintenance of high AOX. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the total oxyradical scavenging capacity (peroxyl, hydroxyl and peroxynitrite) of three clam species: Laternula elliptica (Antarctic), Mya truncata (Arctic) and Mya arenaria (temperate). The data confi rmed that polar bivalves are characterized by higher AOX. Herein, we propose that high AOX is required in environments characterized by low food availability as AOX effi ciently protects biomolecules, notably the RNA expressed at high levels by cold-water ectotherms. Also, high AOX may explain the relatively long lifespan of most polar ectotherms.
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