Little, A.G., and Seebacher, F. (2014) Thyroid hormone regulates cardiac performance during cold acclimation in Zebrafish (Danio rerio). The Journal of experimental biology. 217(Pt 5):718-25.
Limitations to oxygen transport reduce aerobic scope and thereby activity at thermal extremes. Oxygen transport in fish is facilitated to a large extent by cardiac function so that climate variability may reduce fitness by constraining the performance of the heart. In zebrafish (Danio rerio), thyroid hormone (TH) regulates skeletal muscle function and metabolism in response to thermal acclimation. Here we aimed to determine whether TH also regulates cardiac function during acclimation. We used propylthiouracil and iopanoic acid to induce hypothyroidism in zebrafish over a 3-week acclimation period to either 18 or 28°C. We found that cold-acclimated fish had higher maximum heart rates and sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) activity than warm acclimated fish. Hypothyroid treatment significantly decreased these responses in the cold acclimated fish, but it did not affect the warm-acclimated fish. TH did not influence SERCA gene transcription, nor did it increase metabolic rate, of isolated whole hearts. To verify that physiological changes following hypothyroid treatment were in fact due to the action of TH, we supplemented hypothyroid fish with 3,5-diiodothryronine (T2) or 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T3). Supplementation of hypothyroid fish with T2 or T3 restored heart rates and SERCA activity to control levels. We also show that in zebrafish changes in cardiac output in response to warming are primarily mediated by heart rate, rather than by stroke volume. Thus changes in heart rate are important for the overall aerobic capacity of the fish. In addition to its local effects on heart phenotype, we show that TH increases sympathetic tone on the heart at rest and during maximum exercise. Our findings reveal a new pathway through which fish can mitigate the limiting effects of temperature variability on oxygen transport to maintain aerobic scope and promote thermal tolerance.