Development

Conserving Energy

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Science  29 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5526, pp. 2399
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5526.2399a

Removal of oxygen from growing embryos usually would translate into certain death. Invertebrates such as Caenorhabditis and Drosophila can withstand deprivation for a day, but vertebrate embryos, due to their larger size and complexity and their reliance on a circulatory system for supplying oxygen to tissues, would not be expected to tolerate anoxia for long.

Padilla and Roth have observed that zebrafish embryos can survive for 24 hours in the absence of oxygen. They enter a state of suspended animation: Cell division is arrested, and hearts stop beating. This cessation of energy-intensive processes enables the embryos to reduce their energy requirements to levels that can be sustained in the absence of oxygen. Figuring out how the embryos control the shutdown process and how the embryos recover upon reoxygenation may lead to advances in our understanding of a variety of pathological states. — SMH

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.98, 7331 (2001).

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