Certain euryhaline teleosts can tolerate media of very high salinity, i.e. greater than that of seawater itself. The osmotic gradient across the integument of these fish is very high and the key to their survival appears to be the enhanced ability of the gill to excrete excess NaCl. These fish provide an opportunity to study morphological and biochemical aspects of transepithelial salt secretion under conditions of vastly different transport rates. Since the cellular site of gill salt excretion is believed to be the "chloride cell" of the branchial epithelium and since the enzyme Na,K-ATPase has been implicated in salt transport in this and other secretory tissues, we have focused our attention on the differences in chloride cell structure and gill ATPase activity in the variegated pupfish Cyprinodon variegatus adapted to half-strength seawater (50% SW), seawater (100% SW), or double-stregth seawater (200% SW). The Na,K-ATPase activity in gill homogenates was 1.6 times greater in 100% SW. When 50% SW gills were compared to 100% SW gills, differences in chloride cell morphology were minimal. However, chloride cells from 200% SW displayed a marked hypertrophy and a striking increase in basal-lateral cell surface area. These results suggest that there are correlations among higher levels of osmotic stress, basal-lateral extensions of the cell surface, and the activity of the enzyme Na,K-ATPase.

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