Epithelial remodeling and claudin mRNA abundance in the gill and kidney of puffer fish (Tetraodon biocellatus) acclimated to altered environmental ion levels

J Comp Physiol B. 2011 Feb;181(2):219-38. doi: 10.1007/s00360-010-0517-3. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


In water of varying ion content, the gills and kidney of fishes contribute significantly to the maintenance of salt and water balance. However, little is known about the molecular architecture of the tight junction (TJ) complex and the regulation of paracellular permeability characteristics in these tissues. In the current studies, puffer fish (Tetraodon biocellatus) were acclimated to freshwater (FW), seawater (SW) or ion-poor freshwater (IPW) conditions. Following acclimation, alterations in systemic endpoints of hydromineral status were examined in conjunction with changes in gill and kidney epithelia morphology/morphometrics, as well as claudin TJ protein mRNA abundance. T. biocellatus were able to maintain endpoints of hydromineral status within relatively tight limits across the broad range of water ion content examined. Both gill and kidney tissue exhibited substantial alterations in morphology as well as claudin TJ protein mRNA abundance. These responses were particularly pronounced when comparing fish acclimated to SW versus those acclimated to IPW. TEM observations of IPW-acclimated fish gills revealed the presence of cells that exhibited the typical characteristics of gill mitochondria-rich cells (e.g. voluminous, Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase-immunoreactive, exposed to the external environment at the apical surface), but were not mitochondria-rich. To our knowledge, this type of cell has not previously been described in hyperosmoregulating fish gills. Furthermore, modifications in the morphometrics and claudin mRNA abundance of kidney tissue support the notion that spatial alterations in claudin TJ proteins along the nephron of fishes will likely play an important role in the regulation of salt and water balance in these organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Claudins / metabolism*
  • Gills / metabolism*
  • Gills / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ions / analysis*
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Salinity*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism
  • Tetraodontiformes / metabolism*


  • Claudins
  • Ions
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase