Depression of nuclear transcription and extension of mRNA half- life under anoxia in Artemia franciscana embryos

Frank Van Breukelen, University of Colorado Boulder
Ryan Maier, University of Colorado Boulder
Steven C. Hand, University of Colorado Boulder


Transcriptional activity, as assessed by nuclear run-on assays, was constant during 10 h of normoxic development for embryos of the brine shrimp Artemia franciscana. Exposure of embryos to only 4h of anoxia resulted in a 79.3±1 % decrease in levels of in-vivo-initiated transcripts, and transcription was depressed by 88.2±0.7 % compared with normoxic controls after 24 h of anoxia (means ± S.E.M., N=3). Initiation of transcription was fully restored after 1h of normoxic recovery. Artificially lowering the intracellular pH of aerobic embryos to the value reflective of anoxia (pH 6.7) showed that acidification alone explained over half the transcriptional arrest. Initiation of transcription was not rescued by application of 80 % carbon monoxide under anoxia, which suggests that heme-based oxygen sensing is not involved in this global arrest. When these transcriptional data are combined with the finding that mRNA levels are unchanged for at least 6 h of anoxia, it is clear that the half-life of mRNA is extended at least 8.5-fold compared with that in aerobic embryos. In contrast to the activation of compensatory mechanisms to cope with anoxia that occurs in mammalian cells, A. franciscana embryos enter a metabolically depressed state in which gene expression and mRNA turnover are cellular costs apparently not compatible with survival and in which extended tolerance supercedes the requirement for continued metabolic function.