Expression of ion transport genes in ionocytes isolated from larval zebrafish ( Danio rerio) exposed to acidic or Na+-deficient water

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2020 Oct 1;319(4):R412-R427. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00095.2020. Epub 2020 Aug 5.


In zebrafish (Danio rerio), a specific ionocyte subtype, the H+-ATPase-rich (HR) cell, is presumed to be a significant site of transepithelial Na+ uptake/acid secretion. During acclimation to environments differing in ionic composition or pH, ionic and acid-base regulations are achieved by adjustments to the activity level of HR cell ion transport proteins. In previous studies, the quantitative assessment of mRNA levels for genes involved in ionic and acid-base regulations relied on measurements using homogenates derived from the whole body (larvae) or the gill (adult). Such studies cannot distinguish whether any differences in gene expression arise from adjustments of ionocyte subtype numbers or transcriptional regulation specifically within individual ionocytes. The goal of the present study was to use fluorescence-activated cell sorting to separate the HR cells from other cellular subpopulations to facilitate the measurement of gene expression of HR cell-specific transporters and enzymes from larvae exposed to low pH (pH 4.0) or low Na+ (5 μM) conditions. The data demonstrate that treatment of larvae with acidic water for 4 days postfertilization caused cell-specific increases in H+-ATPase (atp6v1aa), ca17a, ca15a, nhe3b, and rhcgb mRNA in addition to increases in mRNA linked to cell proliferation. In fish exposed to low Na+, expression of nhe3b and rhcgb was increased owing to HR cell-specific regulation and elevated numbers of HR cells. Thus, the results of this study demonstrate that acclimation to low pH or low Na+ environmental conditions is facilitated by HR cell-specific transcriptional control and by HR cell proliferation.

Keywords: FACS; H+-ATPase-rich (HR) cell; immunocytochemistry; ion regulation; low pH; mRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gills / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ion Transport / genetics*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / genetics*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / genetics*
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / metabolism
  • Water*
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism


  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Water
  • Sodium
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases