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How one-humped Arabian camels survive without drinking water?

Arabian camels, also known as Camelus dromedarius, have the legendary ability to travel up to 100 desert miles without water. They can endure weeks without access to water.

The key behind this ability is their well-developed kidney.

In recent due to advancing desertification and climate change, scientists have gained interest in the adaptations of camels. Further, advanced laboratory techniques allow studying the underlying genetic mechanisms of these adaptations.

Until now, there is not a freely available and comprehensive study of the genes implicated in coping with dehydration in the kidney of the camel.

In a new study, scientists from the University of Bristol have shed new light on how the kidneys of the one-humped Arabian camel play an essential role in helping it cope with extremes. The project was started in 2015 in collaboration with Professor Abdu Adem’s Lab at United Arab Emirates University.

Scientists examined how various genes changed in the camel kidney as a consequence of dehydration and rehydration. They found that cholesterol plays a vital role in the water conservation process.

Lead authors Fernando AlviraI Iraizoz and Benjamin T. Gillard from the University of Bristol’s Medical School, said: “A decrease in the amount of cholesterol in the membrane of kidney cells would facilitate the movement of solutes and water across different sections of the kidney – a process that is required to efficiently reabsorb water and produce a highly concentrated urine, thus avoiding water loss.”

“This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first time that the level of cholesterol has been directly associated with water conservation in the kidney. Thus, we describe a novel role for this lipid that may be of interest when studying other species.”

Scientists then validated the results by using different techniques. They found that suppression of cholesterol biosynthesis may facilitate water retention in the kidney by indirectly facilitating the AQP2-mediated water reabsorption.

Journal Reference:
  1. Alvira-Iraizoz, F., Gillard, B.T., Lin, P. et al. Multiomic analysis of the Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius) kidney reveals a role for cholesterol in water conservation. Commun Biol 4, 779 (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s42003-021-02327-3

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