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Dr. Patricia Wright

 Dr. Patricia Wright


Office: SSC 3468
Ext: 52719
Lab: SSC 3407/3408
Ext: 58385

Wright Lab


As a senior undergraduate research student at McMaster University, I worked in the lab of Dr. Chris Wood and conducted experiments on ammonia transport across the gills of rainbow trout. This led me to graduate studies at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Dr. Dave Randall. There I continued studying gas exchange and ion transport in fish. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa, I worked with Drs. Tom Moon and Steve Perry on glucose metabolism. Later I studied mammalian kidney metabolism at NIH as a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Mark Knepper. The research in my lab is now focused on how fish and other aquatic animals cope with environmental challenges, with particular interests in amphibious fishes and early life stages.


B.Sc. - McMaster
Ph.D. - UBC


For more information on my research, visit the Wright Lab.

Environmental Physiology

Research in my laboratory is focused on osmoregulation and respiration in aquatic animals. I am interested in how animals maintain homeostasis with changes in the external environment. We study the interaction between the animal and its environment from early development to adults in fish and amphibians.

A Fish Out of Water

Amphibious fishes spend part of their life out of water, either daily, seasonally or at a specific life stage. Early work explored the various air breathing organs that amphibious fish use to respire out of water. Much less is know about amphibious fish that respire through the skin. Our work is focused on an unusual amphibious fish that appears to use the skin as the primary respiratory surface when on land. The self-fertilizing, hermaphroditic mangrove rivulus Kryptolebias marmoratus inhabits mangrove forests of the southern US and South/Central America. These tiny fish (~100mg) tolerate a wide range in water temperature, pH, salinity, oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, as well as prolonged air exposure. What strategies do they use to cope with life out of water? We discovered that rivulus excrete gaseous NH3 across the skin during air exposure, a nitrogen excretion strategy similar to terrestrial gastropods and isopods. The skin is also an important site of ion and water exchange in air-exposed rivulus. Gill morphology is reversibly remodelled when the fish move between water and land. But how does gill remodelling impact respiration when rivulus return to water? Why do rivulus leave water (emerse)? Why are some fish able to survive out of water for longer periods than others? These and other questions are currently under investigation in the lab, as well as in the field (Belize).

Early Developmental Plasticity

The early environment surrounding a developing embryo often shapes the adult morphology, physiology and behaviour, in other words the developmental process is plastic. We are interested in how water temperature and/or oxygen levels during critical windows of early zebrafish development alter the long-term thermal and hypoxia tolerance of the adult fish. We are also interested in whether developmental plasticity or adult acclimation both influence thermal preference in eurythermal mangrove rivulus. As well, mangrove rivulus embryos survive and hatch out of water, a possible physiological advantage because air holds ~30x more oxygen than water. We are studying the developmental consequences of early air exposure in mangrove rivulus. These and other projects address the fundamental relationship between genetic and environmental influences on the adult phenotype.

Ammonia Excretion

Although fish generate and excrete ammonia, elevated ammonia in the environment can be a deadly poison. We are studying pathways involved in ammonia detoxification. Brain glutamine synthetase is an important enzyme involved in reducing ammonia levels. Alternative nitrogen excretion pathways may also be effective in reducing the uptake of ammonia and/or eliminating excess tissue ammonia. We are studying a new class of ammonia transporters belonging to the Rh family of proteins. Rh genes are upregulated in the gills, kidney and skin of mangrove rivulus, carp, goldfish and trout in response to environmental stress. Work is underway to understand how these proteins function and if they are involved in ammonia excretion.

Selected Publications

Gibson, D.J., Sylvester, E.V.A, Turko, A.J., Tattersall, G.J. and Wright P.A. 2015. Out of the frying pan into the air-emersion behaviour and evaporative heat loss in an amphibious mangrove fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus). Biol. Lett. 11, 20150689.

Wells, M.W., Turko, A.J. and Wright, P.A. 2015 Fish embryos on land: terrestrial embryo deposition enhances development in the amphibious fish Kryptolebias marmoratus. J. exp. Biol., JEXBIO/2014/110668 (in press).

Robertson, C., Turko A.J., Jonz, M.G. and Wright, P.A. 2015 Hypercapnia and low pH induce neuroepithelial cell proliferation and emersion behaviour in the amphibious fish Kryptolebias marmoratus. J. Exp. Biol. 218, 2987-2990.

Lawrence, M.J., Wright, P.A. and Wood, C.M. 2015. Physiological and molecular responses of the goldfish kidney (Carassius auratus) to metabolic acidosis and potential mechanisms of renal ammonia transport. J. exp. Biol. 218, 2124-2135.

MacLellan, R.J., Tunnah, L., Barnett, D., Wright, P.A., MacCormack, T. and Currie, S. 2015. Chaperone roles for TMAO and HSP70 during hypoosmotic stress in the spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias). J. Comp. Physiol. B. 185 (7), 729-740.

Wright, P.A., Wood, C.M., Hiroi, J. and Wilson. 2015. (Uncommon) Mechanisms of branchial ammonia excretion in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in response to environmentally induced metabolic acidosis. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. (in press).

Turko, A.J. and Wright, P.A. 2015. Evolution, ecology and physiology of amphibious killifishes (Cyprinodontiformes). J. Fish Biol. 87, 815-835.

Turko, A.J., Robertson, C., Bianchini, K., Freeman, M. and Wright, P.A. 2014. The amphibious fish Kryptolebias marmoratus uses alternative strategies to maintain oxygen delivery during hypoxia and air exposure. (J. exp. Biol., in press).

Zimmer, A.M., Wright, P.A. and Wood, C.M. 2014. What is the primary function of the early gill in developing rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)? Evidence for Na+- coupled ammonia excretion. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 281: 20141422

Wright, P.A., Wood, C.M. and Wilson, J.M. 2014. Rh vs pH: The role of Rhesus glycoproteins in renal ammonia excretion during metabolic acidosis in a freshwater teleost fish. J. exp. Biol. 217, 2855-2865.

Robertson, C.E., Wright, P.A., Köblitz, L. and Bernier, N.J. 2014. HIF-1 mediates adaptive developmental plasticity of hypoxia tolerance in zebrafish, Danio rerio. Proc. R. Soc. B. 281, 20140637.

Porteus, C.S., Wright, P.A. and Milsom, W.K. 2014. Characterization of putative oxygen chemoreceptors in bowfin (Amia calva). J. exp. Biol. 217, 1269-1277.

Porteus, C.S., Wright, P.A. and W.K. Milsom. 2014. Time domains of the hypoxic cardio-respiratory response in bowfin (Amia calva). Resp. Physiol. Neurobiol. 192, 118-127.

Porteus, C.S., Wright, P.A. and W.K. Milsom. 2013. The effect of sustained hypoxia on the cardio-respiratory response of bowfin Amia calva: implications for changes in the oxygen transport system. J. Fish. Biol. 84, 827-843. doi:10.1111/jfb.12186

Bianchini, K. and Wright, P.A. 2013. Hypoxia delays hematopoiesis: retention of embryonic haemoglobin and erythrocytes in larval rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, during chronic hypoxia exposure. J. exp. Biol. 216, 4415-4425.

Consuegra, S., Ellison, A., Allainguillaume, J., Pachebat, J., Peat, K.M. and Wright, P. 2013. Balancing selection and the maintenance of MHC supertype variation in a selfing vertebrate. Proc. R. Soc. B. 280, 20122854.

Cooper, C.A., Wilson, J.M. and Wright, P.A. 2013. Marine, freshwater and aerially acclimated mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus) use different strategies for cutaneous ammonia excretion. Am. J. Physiol. Regul. Integr. Comp. Physiol. 304, R599-R612.

Turko, A., Cooper, C. and Wright, P.A. 2012. Lag-time limits of gill remodelling: The morphology of terrestrially acclimated gills reduces aquatic respiratory function of the amphibious fish Kryptolebias marmoratus. J. exp. Biol. 215, 3973-3980.

Ellison, A., Allainguillaume, J., Girdwood, S., Pachebat, J., Wright, P. and Consuegra, S. 2012. Maintaining immunocompetence under inbreeding: MHC diversity in a selfing fish. Proc. Roy. Soc. B (Lond). (doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.1929).

Wright, P.A. and Wood, C.M. 2012. Seven things fish know about ammonia and we don't. Resp. Physiol. Neurobiol. 184, 231-240.

Bianchini, K., Tattersall, G.J., Sashaw, J., Porteus, C. and Wright, P.A. 2012. Acid water interferes with salamander-green algae symbiosis during early embryonic development. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. (in press).

Wright, P.A. 2012. Environmental physiology of the mangrove rivulus, Kryptolebias marmoratus, a cutaneously breathing fish that survives for weeks out of water. Int. Comp. Biol. p. 1-9 (doi: 10.1093/icb/ics091).

Dhiyebi, H.A., O'Donnell, J.N. and Wright, P.A. 2012. Development, the egg capsule and crowding impact the water chemistry in the microenvironment of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) embryos. J. Fish. Biol. 1-14 (doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.0391.x).

Ellison, A., Wright, P., Taylor, D.S., Cooper, C., Regan, K., Currie, S. and Consuegra, S. 2012. Environmental diel variation, parasite loads and local population structuring of a mixed-mating mangrove fish. Ecol. Evol. p. 1-14 (doi: 10.1002/ece3.289).

Cooper, C.A., Litwiller, S.L. Murrant, C.L. and Wright, P.A. 2011. Cutaneous vasoregulation during short- and long-term aerial acclimation in the amphibious mangrove rivulus, Kryptolebias marmoratus. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 161B, 268-274.

Regan, K.S., Jonz, M.G. and Wright, P.A. 2011. Neuroeipthelial cells and the hypoxia emersion response in the amphibious fish Kryptolebias marmoratus. J. exp. Biol. 214, 2560-2568.

Miller, S.C., Gillis, T.E. and Wright, P.A. 2011. The ontogeny of regulatory control of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) heart and how this is influenced by chronic hypoxia exposure. J. exp. Biol. 214, 2065-2072.

Turko, A.J., Earley, R.L. and Wright, P.A. 2011. Behaviour drives morphology: voluntary emersion patterns shape gill structure in genetically identical mangrove rivulus. An. Behav. 82, 39-47.

LeBlanc, D.M., Wood, C.M., Fudge, D.S. and Wright, P.A. 2010. A fish out of water: gill and skin remodelling promotes osmo- and ionoregulation in the mangrove killifish Kryptolebias marmoratus. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 83, 932-949.

Currie, S., Bagatto, B., DeMille, M., Learner, A., LeBlanc, D., Marks, C., Ong, K., Parker, J., Templeman, N., Tufts, B.L. and Wright, P.A. 2010. Metabolism, nitrogen excretion and heat shock proteins in the central mudminnow (Umbra limi), a facultative air-breathing fish living in a variable environment. Can. J. Zool. 88, 43-58.

Sashaw, J., Nawata, M., Thompson, S., Wood, C.M. and Wright, P.A. 2010. Rhesus glycoprotein and urea transporter genes in rainbow trout embryos are upregulated in response to alkaline water (pH 9.7) but not elevated water ammonia. Aquat. Tox. 96, 308-313.

Sanderson, L.A., Wright, P.A., Robinson, J.W., Ballantyne, J.S. and Bernier, N.J. 2010. Inhibition of glutamine synthetase during ammonia exposure in rainbow trout indicates a high reserve capacity to prevent ammonia toxicity. J. exp. Biol. 213, 2343-2353.

Wright, P.A. and Wood, C.M. 2009. A new paradigm for ammonia excretion in aquatic animals: role of Rhesus (Rh) glycoproteins. J. exp. Biol. (212, 2302-2312)

Tsui, T.K.N., Hung, C.Y.C., Nawata, C.M., Wilson, J.M., Wright, P.A. and Wood, C.M. 2009. Ammonia transport in cultured gill epithelium of freshwater rainbow trout; The importance of Rhesus glycoproteins and the presence of an apical Na+/NH4+ exchange complex. J. exp. Biol. (212, 878-892)

Rodela, T.M., Ballantyne, J.S. and Wright, P.A. 2008. Carrier-mediated urea transport across the mitochondrial membrane of an elasmobranch (Raja erinacea) and a teleost (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fish. Am. J. Physiol. 294, R1947-R1957.

Miller, S.C., Reeb, S.E., Wright, P.A. and Gillis, T.E. 2008. Oxygen concentration in the water boundary layer next to rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) embryos is influenced by hypoxia exposure time, metabolic rate and water flow. Can. J. Fish. Aq. Sci. 65, 2170 - 2177.

Hung, C.C., Nawata, M.C. Wood, C.M. and Wright, P.A. 2008. Rhesus glycoprotein and urea transporter genes are expressed in early stages of development of rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss). J. Exp. Zool. 309A, 262-268.

Nawata, M.C., Hung, C.C.Y., Tsui, T.K.N., Wilson, J.M., Wright, P.A. and Wood, C.M. 2007. Ammonia excretion in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss): evidence for Rh glycoprotein and H+ - ATPase involvement. Physiol Genomics 31, 463-474.

Mackie, P.M., Gharbi, K., Ballantyne, J.S., McCormick, S.D. and Wright, P.A. 2007. Na+/K+/2C1- cotransporter and CFTR gill expression after seawater transfer in smolts (O+) of different Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) families. Aquaculture 272, 625-635.

Wright, P.A., Steele, S.L., Huitema, A. and Bernier, N.J. 2007. Induction of four glutamine synthetase genes in brain of rainbow trout in response to elevated environmental ammonia. J. Exp. Biol. 210, 2905-2911.

Hung, C.Y.C., Tsui, K.N.T., Wilson, J.M., Nawata, C.M., Wood, C.M. and Wright, P.A. 2007. Rhesus glycoprotein gene expression in the mangrove killifish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) exposed to elevated environmental ammonia levels and air. J.Exp.Biol. 210, 2419-2429.

Gharbi, K., Murray, B.W., Moghadam, H.K., Ferguson, M.M., Wright, P.A. and Danzmann, R.G. 2007. Genome organization of glutamine synthetase genes in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Cytogenet Genome Res 116, 113-115.

Ciuhandu, C.S., Wright, P.A., Goldberg, J.I. and Stevens, E.D. 2007. Parameters influencing the dissolved oxygen in the boundary layer of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) embryos and larvae. J. Exp. Biol. 210, 1435-1445.

Ong, K.J., Stevens, E.D. and Wright, P.A.  2007.  Gill morphology of the mangrove killifish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) is plastic and changes in response to terrestrial air exposure.  J. exp. Biol. 210, 1109-1115.


BIOL*1020 Introduction to Biology
BIOL*1070 Discovering Biodiversity
BIOL*4010 Adaptational Physiology
ZOO*3210 Comparative Animal Physiology II

Grad Students

Tessa Blanchard (MSc)
Quentin Heffell (MSc)
Kelly Levesque (MSc)
Andy Turko (PhD)


Wright Lab

Journal of Experimental Biology