Expansion of capacities for iron transport and sequestration reflects plasma volumes and heart mass among white-blooded notothenioid fishes.
The family Channichthyidae or "icefishes" (suborder Notothenioidei) represents the only vertebrates lacking hemoglobin (Hb) as adults. Several icefish species also do not express cardiac myoglobin (Mb). We address how levels of proteins involved in iron (Fe) processing (transport, sequestration, and export) vary among white- and red-blooded notothenioids, and whether absence of Hb and/or Mb in channichthyids is accompanied by expansion of contents of Fe-binding proteins to protect against unchaperoned Fe. Levels of transferrin (Tf), ferritin (Ft), ceruloplasmin (Cp), and non-heme Fe were quantified in plasma, serum, and/or nonhematopoietic tissues (cardiac ventricle, skeletal muscle, and liver) from species of white-blooded (Chaenocephalus aceratus, Champsocephalus gunnari, Chionodraco rastrospinosus, Pseudochaenichthys georgianus) (the first two species not expressing Mb) and red-blooded (Notothenia coriiceps, Gobionotothen gibberifrons) notothenioids. We also measured levels of ascorbate (Asc), a mediator of Fe uptake. While plasma concentrations of Tf and tissue levels of Asc are similar among species, concentrations of plasma Asc are lower in white-blooded species. Concentrations of Ft and non-heme Fe and activities of Cp are also generally reduced in icefishes compared with red-blooded notothenioids. The presence of cardiac Mb in some icefish species does not appear to influence levels of proteins involved in Fe processing. To address further the question of Fe sequestration within a physiological context, we account for well-characterized differences in blood volume and heart mass among white- and red-blooded notothenioids. We report that total contents of plasma Tf are greater, while ventricle non-heme Fe is at least at parity in white- vs. red-blooded species.