Thermal plasticity of skeletal muscle phenotype in ectothermic vertebrates and its significance for locomotory behaviour

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Abstract

Seasonal cooling can modify the thermal preferenda of ectothermic vertebrates and elicit a variety of physiological responses ranging from winter dormancy to an acclimation response that partially compensates for the effects of low temperature on activity. Partial compensation of activity levels is particularly common in aquatic species for which seasonal temperature changes provide a stable cue for initiating the response. Thermal plasticity of locomotory performance has evolved independently on numerous occasions, and there is considerable phylogenetic diversity with respect to the mechanisms at the physiological and molecular levels. In teleosts, neuromuscular variables that can be modified include the duration of motor nerve stimulation, muscle activation and relaxation times, maximum force and unloaded shortening velocity (V-max), although not all are modified in every species. Thermal plasticity in Vmax has been associated with changes in myosin ATPase activity and myosin heavy chain (MyHC) composition and/or with a change in the ratio of myosin light chain isoforms. In common carp (Cyprinus carpio), there are continuous changes in phenotype with acclimation temperature at lower levels of organisation, such as MyHC composition and Vmax, but a distinct threshold for an effect in terms of locomotory performance. Thus, there is no simple relationship between whole-animal performance and muscle phenotype. The nature and magnitude of temperature acclimation responses also vary during ontogeny. For example, common carp acquire the ability to modify MyHC composition with changes in acclimation temperature during the juvenile stage. In contrast, the thermal plasticity of swimming performance observed in tadpoles of the frog Limnodynastes peronii is lost in the terrestrial adult stage. Although it is often assumed that the adjustments in locomotory performance associated with temperature acclimation enhance fitness, this has rarely been tested experimentally. Truly integrative studies of temperature acclimation are scarce, and few studies have considered both sensory and motor function in evaluating behavioural responses. Developmental plasticity is a special case of a temperature acclimation response that can lead to temporary or permanent changes in morphology and/or physiological characteristics that affect locomotory performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2305-2322
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume205
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002

Keywords

  • temperature acclimation
  • muscle fibre type
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • ectotherm
  • locomotion
  • CARP CYPRINUS-CARPIO
  • FISH MYOXOCEPHALUS-SCORPIUS
  • HERRING CLUPEA-HARENGUS
  • SCUP RED MUSCLE
  • FORCE-VELOCITY CHARACTERISTICS
  • MYOFIBRILLAR ATPASE ACTIVITY
  • GOLDFISH CARASSIUS-AURATUS
  • MECHANICAL POWER OUTPUT
  • BASS MORONE-SAXATILIS
  • FROG RANA-TEMPORARIA

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