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Subspecies differences in thermal acclimation of mitochondrial function and the role of uncoupling proteins in killifish [RESEARCH ARTICLE]



Heather J. Bryant, Dillon J. Chung, and Patricia M. Schulte

Thermal effects on mitochondrial efficiency and ATP production can influence whole-animal thermal tolerance and performance. Thus, organisms may have the capacity to alter mitochondrial processes through acclimation or adaptation to mitigate these effects. One possible mechanism is through the action of uncoupling proteins (UCPs), which can decrease the proton-motive force independent of the production of ATP. To test this hypothesis, we examined the mRNA expression patterns of UCP isoforms and characterized the effects of thermal acclimation and putative local thermal adaptation on mitochondrial capacity, proton leak and P/O ratios in two subspecies of Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus). Ucp1 was the dominant isoform in liver and was more highly expressed in northern killifish. We found that cold acclimation increased mitochondrial capacity (state III and maximum substrate oxidation capacity), state II membrane potential, proton leak and P/O ratios in northern, but not southern, killifish liver mitochondria. Palmitate-induced mitochondrial uncoupling was detected in northern, but not southern, killifish liver mitochondria, consistent with the differences in Ucp mRNA expression between the subspecies. Taken together, our data suggest that mitochondrial function is more plastic in response to thermal acclimation in northern killifish than in southern killifish and that UCP1 may play a role in regulating the proton-motive force in northern, but not southern, killifish in response to thermal acclimation. These data demonstrate the potential for adaptive variation in mitochondrial plasticity in response to cold.

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