Matthew J. H. Gilbert, Varsha Rani, Sean M. McKenzie, and Anthony P. Farrell
Acute warming in fish increases heart rate (fH) and cardiac output to peak values, after which performance plateaus or declines and arrhythmia may occur. This cardiac response can place a convective limitation on systemic oxygen delivery at high temperatures. To test the hypothesis that autonomic cardiac regulation protects cardiac performance in rainbow trout during acute warming, we investigated adrenergic and cholinergic regulation during the onset and progression of cardiac limitations. We explored the direct effects of adrenergic stimulation by acutely warming an in situ, working, perfused heart until arrhythmia occurred, cooling the heart to restore rhythmicity and rewarming with increasing adrenergic stimulation. Adrenergic stimulation produced a clear, dose-dependent increase in the temperature and peak fH achieved prior to the onset of arrhythmia. To examine how this adrenergic protection functions in conjunction with cholinergic vagal inhibition in vivo, rainbow trout fitted with ECG electrodes were acutely warmed in a respirometer until they lost equilibrium (CTmax) with and without muscarinic (atropine) and β-adrenergic (sotalol) antagonists. Trout exhibited roughly equal and opposing cholinergic and adrenergic tones on fH that persisted up to critical temperatures. β-adrenergic blockade significantly lowered peak fH by 14-17%, while muscarinic blockade significantly lowered the temperature for peak fH by 2.0°C. Moreover, muscarinic and β-adrenergic blockers injected individually or together significantly reduced CTmax by up to 3°C, indicating for the first time that cardiac adrenergic stimulation and cholinergic inhibition can enhance acute heat tolerance in rainbow trout at the level of the heart and the whole animal.