Oxygen measurements in closed system respirometry using blubber explants from suckling and fasting grey seal pups



    Understanding physiological responses of wildlife and domesticated animals to environmental challenges can be difficult or impossible to investigate at the whole animal level. Tissue culture approaches open up experimental possibilities, but are difficult to undertake in remote environments where facilities to assess tissue viability and minimise or monitor microbial contamination may not be available. Here we used planar optodes in closed system respirometry to measure oxygen use by blubber explants from grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) pups, obtained in a remote field environment in 2017 and processed in a field laboratory with minimal equipment. These data show oxygen measurements at timed intervals and demonstrate that the tissues were respiring aerobically for the 24 h measurement period, compared to empty control vials. We also measured glucose, lactate and glycerol levels in culture media after 24 hours to allow correlation of glucose uptake, lactate accumulation and lipolytic rate, which are also useful markers of metabolic activity, with oxygen use data. Nutritional state of the pups (either suckling or fasting) and tissue depth (closer to muscle (inner) or closer to skin (outer)) were recorded to allow effects of tissue characteristics on metabolic parameters to be examined. We were also able to use the oxygen use profiles in explant-containing and control vials to identify those contaminated by microbes well ahead of any visible colour change in the media stocks. The use of planar optodes for oxygen measurement thus allows simultaneous physiological measurements and contamination monitoring to be undertaken in a minimally equipped field laboratory. Robinson et al. (2021) published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution provides the details of tissue collection and tissue culture. These data will facilitate comparison of metabolic activity of adipose tissue within and between species and assessment of efficacy of monitoring microbial contamination in tissue culture experiments, particularly in field laboratories where other methods may not be logistically possible.
    Date made available30 Aug 2021

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