This survey on calorimetry and thermodynamics of anoxibiosis applies classical and irreversible thermodynamics to interpret experimental, direct calorimetric results in order to elucidate the sequential activation of various biochemical pathways. First, the concept of direct and indirect calorimetry is expanded to incorporate the thermochemistry of aerobic and anoxic metabolism in living cells and organisms. Calorimetric studies done under normoxia as well as under physiological and environmental anoxia are presented and assessed in terms of ATP turnover rate. Present evidence suggests that unknown sources of energy in freshwater and marine invertebrates under long-term anoxia may be important.
During physiological hypoxia, thermodynamically grossly inefficient pathways sustain high metabolic rates for brief periods. On the contrary, under long-term environmental anoxia, low steady-state heat dissipation is linked to the more efficient succinate, propionate, and acetate pathways. In the second part of this paper these relationships are discussed in the context of linear, irreversible thermodynamics. The calorimetric and biochemical trends during aerobic-anoxic transitions are consistent with thermodynamic optimum functions of catabolic pathways. The theory predicts a decrease of rate with an increase of thermodynamic efficiency; therefore maximum rate and maximum efficiency are mutually exclusive. Cellular changes of pH and adenylate phosphorylation potential are recognized as regulatory mechanisms in the energetic switching to propionate production. While enzyme kinetics provides one key for understanding metabolic regulation, our insight remains incomplete without a complementary thermodynamic analysis of kinetic control in energetically coupled pathways.