Urea production and transport in teleost fishes

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 1998 Jan;119(1):47-54. doi: 10.1016/s1095-6433(97)00407-8.


Teleosts appear to have retained the genes for the urea cycle enzymes. A few species express the full complement of enzymes and are ureotelic (e.g., Lake Magadi tilapia) or ammoniotelic (e.g., largemouth bass), whereas most species have low or non-detectable enzyme activities in liver tissue and excrete little urea (e.g., adult rainbow trout). It was surprising, therefore, to find the expression of four urea cycle enzymes during early life stages of rainbow trout. The urea cycle may play a role in ammonia detoxification during a critical time of development. Exposure to alkaline water (pH 9.0-9.5) or NH4Cl (0.2 mmol/l) increased urea excretion by several-fold in trout embryos, free embryos and alevin. Urea transport is either by passive simple diffusion or via carried-mediated transport proteins. Molecular studies have revealed that a specialised urea transport protein is present in kidney tissue of elasmobranchs, similar to the facilitated urea transporter found in the mammalian inner medulla of the kidney.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / pharmacokinetics
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Enzymes / metabolism
  • Fishes / embryology
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Urea / metabolism*


  • Enzymes
  • Ammonia
  • Urea