Goldfish are one of a few species able to avoid cellular damage during month-long periods in severely hypoxic environments. By suppressing action potentials in excitatory glutamatergic neurons, the goldfish brain decreases its overall energy expenditure. Coincident with reductions in O2 availability is a natural decrease in cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, which has been proposed to function as part of a low-oxygen signal transduction pathway. Using live-tissue fluorescence microscopy, we found that ROS production decreased by 10% with the onset of anoxia in goldfish telencephalic brain slices. Employing whole-cell patch-clamp recording, we found that, similar to severe hypoxia, the ROS scavengers N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and MitoTEMPO, added during normoxic periods, depolarized membrane potential (severe hypoxia −73.6 to −61.4 mV, NAC −76.6 to −66.2 mV and MitoTEMPO −71.5 mV to −62.5 mV) and increased whole-cell conductance (severe hypoxia 5.7 nS to 8.0 nS, NAC 6.0 nS to 7.5 nS and MitoTEMPO 6.0 nS to 7.6 nS). Also, in a subset of active pyramidal neurons, these treatments reduced action potential firing frequency (severe hypoxia 0.18 Hz to 0.03 Hz, NAC 0.27 Hz to 0.06 Hz and MitoTEMPO 0.35 Hz to 0.08 Hz). Neither severe hypoxia nor ROS scavenging impacted action potential threshold. The addition of exogenous hydrogen peroxide could reverse the effects of the antioxidants. Taken together, this supports a role for a reduction in [ROS] as a low-oxygen signal in goldfish brain.

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