Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 188, Issue 6, pp 957–966 | Cite as

Nitric oxide metabolites in hypoxia, freezing, and hibernation of the wood frog, Rana sylvatica

  • Bethany L. Williams
  • James M. Wiebler
  • Richard E. LeeJr.
  • Jon P. CostanzoEmail author
Original Paper


Nitric oxide (NO) is a gaseous free radical that in diverse organisms performs many signaling and protective functions, such as vasoregulation, inhibition of apoptosis, antioxidation, and metabolic suppression. Increased availability of NO may be especially important during life-history periods when organisms contend with multiple stresses. We investigated dynamics of the NO metabolites, nitrite (NO2) and nitrate (NO3), in the blood plasma, heart, liver, and skeletal muscle of the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), an amphibian that endures chronic cold, freezing, hypoxia, dehydration, and extended aphagia during hibernation. We found elevated concentrations of NO2 and/or NO3 in the plasma (up to 4.1-fold), heart (3.1-fold), and liver (up to 4.1-fold) of frogs subjected to experimental hypoxia (24 h, 4 °C), and in the liver (up to 3.8-fold) of experimentally frozen frogs (48 h, − 2.5 °C), suggesting that increased NO availability aids in survival of these stresses. During a 38-week period of simulated hibernation, NO2 and/or NO3 increased in the plasma (up to 10.4-fold), heart (up to 3.3-fold), and liver (5.0-fold) during an initial 5-week winter-acclimatization regimen and generally remained elevated thereafter. In hibernation, plasma NO2 was higher in frogs indigenous to Interior Alaska than in conspecifics from a temperate locale (southern Ohio), suggesting that NO availability is matched to the severity of environmental conditions prevailing in winter. The comparatively high NO availability in R. sylvatica, a stress-tolerant species, together with published values for other species, suggest that the NO protection system is of general importance in the stress adaptation of vertebrates.


Nitric oxide Stress adaptation Hypoxia Freeze tolerance Hibernation Rana sylvatica 



We thank C. do Amaral for aiding with the frog collection. She and K. Killian provided constructive comments on the manuscript. Supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Grant IOS1022788 to JPC).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  2. 2.School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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