How goldfish make alcohol to survive without oxygen

Scientists at the Universities of Oslo and Liverpool have uncovered the secret behind a goldfish's remarkable ability to produce alcohol as a way of surviving harsh winters beneath frozen lakes.

Humans and most other vertebrate animals die within a few minutes without oxygen. Yet goldfish and their wild relatives, crucian carp, can survive for days, even months, in oxygen-free water at the bottom of ice-covered ponds.

During this time, the fish are able to convert anaerobically produced lactic acid into ethanol, which then diffuses across their gills into the surrounding water and avoids a dangerous build-up of lactic acid in the body.

The molecular mechanism behind this highly unusual ability, which is unique among vertebrates and more commonly associated with brewer's yeast, has now been uncovered and is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The international team has shown that muscles of goldfish and crucian carp contain not just the usual one, but two sets of the proteins normally used to channel carbohydrates towards their breakdown within a cell's mitochondria -- a key step for energy production.

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