Evolution

How animals sense CO2 in blood

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Science  24 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6327, pp. 809-810
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6327.809-g

Chickens and other warm-blooded animals may share the same internal carbon dioxide sensor.

PHOTO: WAYNE HUTCHINSON/MINDEN PICTURES

High carbon dioxide levels in blood can be lethal to animals, so it is crucial that the body regulates the regular excretion of CO2. De Wild et al. hypothesized that the protein Connexin 26 plays a key role in sensing CO2 levels in warm-blooded animals. The authors exposed Connexin 26 from four different organisms—human, chicken, rat, and mole rat—to rising levels of CO2. They found that the sensitivity of the protein to CO2 matched the organism's tolerance of CO2. Connexin 26 may thus be a universal CO2 sensor in warm-blooded animals.

Proc. R. Soc. B 10.1098/rspb.2016.2723 (2017).

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