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To DGC or not to DGC: oxygen guarding in the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis (Isoptera: Termopsidae)

Lighton, John R. B. and Ottesen, Elizabeth A. (2005) To DGC or not to DGC: oxygen guarding in the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis (Isoptera: Termopsidae). Journal of Experimental Biology, 208 (24). pp. 4671-4678. ISSN 0022-0949.

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The ability of some insects to engage in complex orchestrations of tracheal gas exchange has been well demonstrated, but its evolutionary origin remains obscure. According to a recently proposed hypothesis, insects may employ spiracular control of gas exchange to guard tissues against long-term oxidative damage by using the discontinuous gas-exchange cycle (DGC) to limit internal oxygen partial pressure (P_(O_2)). This manuscript describes a different approach to oxygen guarding in the lower termite Zootermopsis nevadensis. These insects do not display a DGC but respond to elevated oxygen concentrations by restricting spiracular area, resulting in a transient decline in CO_2 emission. High internal CO_2 concentrations are then maintained; restoring normoxia results in a transient reciprocal increase in CO_2 emission caused by release of excess endotracheal CO_2. These changes in spiracular area reflect active guarding of low internal O_2 concentrations and demonstrate that regulation of endotracheal hypoxia takes physiological priority over prevention of CO_2 build-up. This adaptation may reflect the need to protect oxygen-sensitive symbionts (or, gut bug guarding). Termites may eschew the DGC because periodic flushing of the tracheal system with air may harm the obligate anaerobes upon which the lower termites depend for survival on their native diet of chewed wood.

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Additional Information:© The Company of Biologists Ltd 2005. Accepted 17 October 2005. First published online December 2, 2005. We thank Mike Dickinson of Caltech for facilitating this collaboration. J.R.B.L. thanks Robbin Turner for her assistance with data acquisition and manuscript preparation, and Sable Systems International for the loan of instruments. E.A.O. thanks Prof. Jared Leadbetter of Caltech for his advice and support and gratefully acknowledges funding from the NIH/NRSA training grant 5 T32 GM07616.
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NIH5 T32 GM07616
Subject Keywords:termite; Zootermopsis nevadensis; trachea; spiracle; oxygen; symbiont
Issue or Number:24
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090917-144812351
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Official Citation:Lighton, John R. B., Ottesen, Elizabeth A. To DGC or not to DGC: oxygen guarding in the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis (Isoptera: Termopsidae) J Exp Biol 2005 208: 4671-4678
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15929
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:23 Sep 2009 20:13
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:05

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