Oxygen fluctuations are common in marine waters, and hypoxia–reoxygenation (H–R) stress can negatively affect mitochondrial metabolism. The long-lived ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, is known for its hypoxia tolerance associated with metabolic rate depression, yet the mechanisms that sustain mitochondrial function during oxygen fluctuations are not well understood. We used top-down metabolic control analysis (MCA) to determine aerobic capacity and control over oxygen flux in the mitochondria of quahogs exposed to short-term hypoxia (24 h <0.01% O2) and subsequent reoxygenation (1.5 h 21% O2) compared with normoxic control animals (21% O2). We demonstrated that flux capacity of the substrate oxidation and proton leak subsystems were not affected by hypoxia, while the capacity of the phosphorylation subsystem was enhanced during hypoxia associated with a depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane. Reoxygenation decreased the oxygen flux capacity of all three mitochondrial subsystems. Control over oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) respiration was mostly exerted by substrate oxidation regardless of H–R stress, whereas control by the proton leak subsystem of LEAK respiration increased during hypoxia and returned to normoxic levels during reoxygenation. During hypoxia, reactive oxygen species (ROS) efflux was elevated in the LEAK state, whereas it was suppressed in the OXPHOS state. Mitochondrial ROS efflux returned to normoxic control levels during reoxygenation. Thus, mitochondria of A. islandica appear robust to hypoxia by maintaining stable substrate oxidation and upregulating phosphorylation capacity, but remain sensitive to reoxygenation. This mitochondrial phenotype might reflect adaptation of A. islandica to environments with unpredictable oxygen fluctuations and its behavioural preference for low oxygen levels.

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