Ca2+-driven intestinal HCO3- secretion and CaCO3 precipitation in the European flounder in vivo: Influences on acid-base regulation and blood gas transport

Christopher A. Cooper, Jonathan M. Whittamore, Rod W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Marine teleost fish continuously ingest seawater to prevent dehydration and their intestines absorb fluid by mechanisms linked to three separate driving forces: 1) cotransport of NaCl from the gut fluid; 2) bicarbonate (HCO 3-)secretion and Cl- absorption via HCO 3- exchange fueled by metabolic CO2; and 3) alkaline precipitation of Ca2+ as insoluble CaCO3, which aids H2O absorption). The latter two processes involve high rates of epithelial HCO3- secretion stimulated by intestinal Ca2+ and can drive a major portion of water absorption. At higher salinities and ambient Ca2+ concentrations the osmoregulatory role of intestinal HCO3- secretion is amplified, but this has repercussions for other physiological processes, in particular, respiratory gas transport (as it is fueled by metabolic CO2) and acid-base regulation (as intestinal cells must export H+ into the blood to balance apical HCO3- secretion). The flounder intestine was perfused in vivo with salines containing 10, 40, or 90 mM Ca2+. Increasing the luminal Ca2+ concentration caused a large elevation in intestinal HCO3- production and excretion. Additionally, blood pH decreased (-0.13 pH units) and plasma partial pressure of CO2 (PCO2) levels were elevated (+1.16 mmHg) at the highest Ca perfusate level after 3 days of perfusion. Increasing the perfusate [Ca2+] also produced proportional increases in net acid excretion via the gills. When the net intestinal flux of all ions across the intestine was calculated, there was a greater absorption of anions than cations. This missing cation flux was assumed to be protons, which vary with an almost 1:1 relationship with net acid excretion via the gill. This study illustrates the intimate link between intestinal HCO3 - production and osmoregulation with acid-base balance and respiratory gas exchange and the specific controlling role of ingested Ca 2+ independent of any other ion or overall osmolality in marine teleost fish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R870-R876
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbonic anhydrase
  • Gill
  • Oxygen
  • Protons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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