Low-temperature protein metabolism: seasonal changes in protein synthesis and RNA dynamics in the Antarctic limpet Nacella concinna Strebel 1908

Protein synthesis is a fundamental and energetically expensive physiological process in all living organisms. Very few studies have examined the specific challenges of manufacturing proteins at low ambient temperatures. At high southern latitudes, water temperatures are continually below or near freezing and are highly stable, while food availability is very seasonal. To examine the effects of low temperature and a highly seasonal food supply on protein metabolism, we have measured whole. body protein synthesis, RNA concentrations, RNA:protein ratios and RNA translational efficiencies in the Antarctic limpet Nacella concinna at four times of the year. From summer to winter, protein synthesis rates decreased by 52%, RNA concentrations decreased by 55% and RNA:protein ratios decreased by 68%, while RNA translational efficiencies were low and very variable. Protein synthesis rates in N. concinna approached those measured in temperate mussels, while RNA:protein ratios were considerably higher than in temperate species. Interspecific comparisons show that species living at low temperatures have elevated RNA:protein ratios, which are probably needed to counteract a thermally induced reduction in RNA translational efficiency. Calculations using theoretical energetic costs of protein synthesis suggest that Antarctic species may allocate a larger proportion of their metabolic budget to protein synthesis than do temperate or tropical species.


Authors: Fraser, Keiron P.P., Clarke, Andrew, Peck, Lloyd S.

On this site: Andrew Clarke, Lloyd Peck
1 January, 2002
Journal of Experimental Biology / 205