Multidisciplinary respiratory research highlighted in the present symposium uses existing and new models from all Kingdoms in both basic and applied research and bears upon molecular signaling processes that have been present from the beginning of life and have been maintained as an integral part of it. Many of these old mechanisms are still recognizable as ROS and oxygen-dependent pathways that probably were in place even before photosynthesis evolved. These processes are not only recognizable through relatively small molecules such as nucleotides and their derivatives. Also some DNA sequences such as the hypoxia response elements and pas gene family are ancient and have been co-opted in various functions. The products of pas genes, in addition to their function in regulating nuclear response to hypoxia as part of the hypoxia-inducible factor HIF, play key roles in development, phototransduction, and control of circadian rhythmicity. Also RuBisCO, an enzyme best known for incorporating CO(2) into organic substrates in plants also has an ancient oxygenase function, which plays a key role in regulating peroxide balance in cells. As life forms became more complex and aerobic metabolism became dominant in multicellular organisms, the signaling processes also took on new levels of complexity but many ancient elements remained. The way in which they are integrated into remodeling processes involved in tradeoffs between respiration and nutrition or in control of aging in complex organisms is an exciting field for future research.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Life originated in anoxia, but many organisms came to depend upon oxygen for survival, independently evolving diverse respiratory systems for acquiring oxygen from the environment. Ambient oxygen tension (PO2 ) fluctuated through the ages in correlation with biodiversity and body size, enabling organisms to migrate from water to land and air and sometimes in the opposite direction. Habitat expansion compels the use of different gas exchangers, for example, skin, gills, tracheae, lungs, and their intermediate stages, that may coexist within the same species; coexistence may be temporally disjunct (e.g., larval gills vs. adult lungs) or simultaneous (e.g., skin, gills, and lungs in some salamanders). Disparate systems exhibit similar directions of adaptation: toward larger diffusion interfaces, thinner barriers, finer dynamic regulation, and reduced cost of breathing. Efficient respiratory gas exchange, coupled to downstream convective and diffusive resistances, comprise the “oxygen cascade”—step-down of PO2 that balances
supply against toxicity. Here, we review the origin of oxygen homeostasis, a primal selection factor for all respiratory systems, which in turn function as gatekeepers of the cascade. Within an organism’s lifespan, the respiratory apparatus adapts in various ways to upregulate oxygen uptake in hypoxia and restrict uptake in hyperoxia. In an evolutionary context, certain species also become adapted to environmental conditions or habitual organismic demands. We, therefore, survey the comparative anatomy and physiology of respiratory systems from invertebrates to vertebrates, water to air breathers, and terrestrial to aerial inhabitants. Through the evolutionary directions and variety of gas exchangers, their shared features and individual compromises may be appreciated.
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