Synthetic Capacity does not Predict Elasmobranchs' Ability to Maintain Trimethylamine Oxide Without a Dietary Contribution

Document Type


Publication Date



Diet, Elasmobranch, Feed, Synthesis, Trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), Urea

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) is an organic osmolyte and universal protein stabilizer. Its role as a cytoprotectant is particularly important in ureosmotic elasmobranchs that accumulate high levels of urea, a macromolecular perturbant. Feeding is a key component in the turnover and maintenance of these nitrogenous compounds. However, previous studies examining TMAO regulation have been largely completed using starved individuals, when nitrogen balance is altered. Here, under fed conditions, we test the importance of dietary TMAO on long-term maintenance in three elasmobranch species with differing endogenous synthetic capacities. Smoothhounds (Mustelus canis), spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), and little skates (Leucoraja erinacea) exhibited species- and tissue-specific differences in their ability to conserve TMAO when fed a low TMAO diet for 56 days. Smoothhounds, a species with the capacity for endogenous production, exhibited a decrease in muscle TMAO. Spiny dogfish and little skates, species with no reported ability for synthesis, exhibited decreases in plasma and liver TMAO, respectively. Our findings are contrary to previous starvation studies demonstrating constant levels of TMAO for up to 56 days in elasmobranchs. Further, the previously reported synthetic capacity of these species did not correlate with their ability to conserve TMAO and cannot be used to predict a species reliance on dietary contributions for prolonged maintenance. It is possible that all species rely to a degree on absorption of TMAO from the diet or that alternate synthetic or regulatory pathways play a larger role than previously thought.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, v. 217, p. 35-42