Osmoregulation and epithelial water transport: Lessons from the intestine of marine teleost fish

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132 Scopus citations


For teleost fish living in seawater, drinking the surrounding medium is necessary to avoid dehydration. This is a key component of their osmoregulatory strategy presenting the challenge of excreting excess salts while achieving a net retention of water. The intestine has an established role in osmoregulation, and its ability to effectively absorb fluid is crucial to compensating for water losses to the hyperosmotic environment. Despite this, the potential for the teleost intestine to serve as a comparative model for detailed, integrative experimental studies on epithelial water transport has so far gone largely untapped. The following review aims to present an assessment of the teleost intestine as a fluid-transporting epithelium. Beginning with a brief overview of marine teleost osmoregulation, emphasis shifts to the processing of ingested seawater by the gastrointestinal tract and the characteristics of intestinal ion and fluid transport. Particular attention is given to acid-base transfers by the intestine, specifically bicarbonate secretion, which creates the distinctly alkaline gut fluids responsible for the formation of solid calcium carbonate precipitates. The respective contributions of these unique features to intestinal fluid absorption, alongside other recognised ion transport processes, are then subsequently considered within the wider context of the classic physiological problem of epithelial water transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquaporins
  • Lateral intercellular space
  • Solute-linked water transport
  • Tight junction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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