The mechanisms of cardiovascular control in the Antarctic fish Pagothenia borchgrevinki were investigated during rest and swimming exercise using pharmacological tools to reveal the nature of the control systems involved. Simultaneous and continuous recordings of ventral and dorsal aortic blood pressure, heart rate and ventral aortic blood flow (cardiac output) were made using standard cannulation procedures and a single-crystal Doppler flowmeter. Exercise produced a clear and consistent decrease in dorsal aortic blood pressure caused by a decrease in systemic vascular resistance. At the same time, ventral aortic blood pressure increased owing to the combined effects of a markedly increased cardiac output (by about 80 %) and branchial vasoconstriction. Judged from the effects of the alpha-adrenoceptor antagonist prazosin, control of the branchial vasculature involves an alpha-adrenoceptor-mediated vasoconstriction, in addition to more traditional cholinergic vasoconstrictor and ss-adrenoceptor-mediated dilatory mechanisms. The range of heart rates is large, from 3-4 beats min-1 in individual fish during hypertensive bradycardia to about 28 beats min-1 after atropine treatment. Both chronotropic and inotropic effects are responsible for a marked increase in cardiac output during exercise. The increase in blood pressure caused by adrenaline injection was due largely to an increase in cardiac output, while direct effects on the systemic vasculature were small and transient. The increase in cardiac output, in turn, was due solely to an adrenergic stimulation of stroke volume. A barostatic bradycardia, often seen in other vertebrates in response to adrenaline injection, was absent and it is possible that a decrease in heart rate was offset by direct adrenergic stimulation of the heart. Angiotensin II (Ang II) produced consistent hypertension by systemic vasoconstriction. In contrast to the effects of adrenaline injection, the hypertension caused by Ang II was accompanied by a marked bradycardia. This could be abolished by atropine, suggesting a cholinergic vagal reflex of the type found in other vertebrates. Angiotensin I also caused an elevated blood pressure, and this effect was abolished by the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor enalapril, demonstrating elements of an angiotensin-related cardiovascular control system.

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