The sleeper Bostrichthys sinensis (family Eleotridae) stores glutamine and reduces ammonia production during aerial exposure

J Comp Physiol B. 2001 Jun;171(5):357-67. doi: 10.1007/s003600100184.


Bostrichthys sinensis inhabits brackish water, living in the crevices of the river mouths of Shang Xi and Guangdong, China. In its natural habitat, it may encounter aerial exposure frequently during low tides, and it usually remains quiescent in the absence of water. Upon aerial exposure in the laboratory, the ammonia excretion rate decreased to one-fourth that of the submerged control. Although all the enzymes of the ornithine-urea cycle were detected in the liver of this fish, the activity of hepatic carbamoyl phosphate synthetase was too low for the cycle to be functioning. Indeed, ammonia accumulated in the tissues and was not converted to urea. Results indicate that ammonia produced through amino acid catabolism was detoxified to glutamine during the first 24 h of aerial exposure. The excess amount of glutamine stored in the muscle during this period couldaccount approximately for the reduction in ammonia equivalent excreted. There was indeed a significant increase in the activity of glutamine synthetase from the liver of specimens exposed to terrestrial conditions. In contrast to the production of alanine, formation of glutamine is energetically expensive. Since B. sinensis remained relatively inactive on land, the reduction in energy demand for muscular activity might provide it with the opportunity to exploit glutamine formation as a means to detoxify ammonia. After 72 h of aerial exposure, B. sinensis reduced internal ammonia production, possibly through reductions in proteolysis and amino acid catabolism, to avoid excessive accumulation of ammonia.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Air
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Ammonia / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Glutamine
  • Ammonia
  • Urea
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase