Circulatory adaptation to bimodal respiration in the dipnoan lungfish
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In the dipnoan lungfish, Protopterus aethiopicus, P. annectens, and Lepidosiren paradoxa, the ductus is a short powerful muscular vascular trunk forming a channel for communication between the systemic and pulmonary circulations. In structure, the dipnoan ductus is very similar to the ductus arteriosus (Botalli) in the mammal. Innervation is abundant, consisting of myelinated and nonmyelinated nerve fibers issuing, at least in part, from the vagus. Neurons are present in the adventitia, and numerous nerve profiles, filled with small agranular vesicles, are closely associated with the myocytes, suggesting strong cholinergic control. Perfusion of the ductus in vitro using hypoxic saline causes it to dilate; conversely it is constricted by alpha-agonists. Dopamine and prostaglandin E2 are potent dilators, whereas the beta-agonist, isoproterenol, and acetylcholine are less powerful. A vasomotor segment has been identified on the pulmonary artery (PAVS) close to its junction with the ductus. Its location and structure are similar to the corresponding segment in amphibians and reptiles. It is innervated by endings filled with small clear vesicles. Granular vesicle cells are also present within the adventitia. The PAVS is constricted by acetylcholine. As in amphibians, alpha-agonists and hypoxic saline are without vasomotor effects. Based on the anatomic and physiological observations, a concept of cyclic perfusion of the gas exchangers in Dipnoi is proposed. During the alternation between air breathing (emersion) and apneic phases (immersion), the pattern of the circulation in the lungfish oscillates between that of a tetrapod and a fish.
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