Coordination of cytochrome c oxidase gene expression in the remodelling of skeletal muscle Journal Articles uri icon

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  • SUMMARY Many fish species respond to low temperature by inducing mitochondrial biogenesis, reflected in an increase in activity of the mitochondrial enzyme cytochrome c oxidase (COX). COX is composed of 13 subunits, three encoded by mitochondrial (mt)DNA and 10 encoded by nuclear genes. We used real-time PCR to measure mRNA levels for the 10 nuclear-encoded genes that are highly expressed in muscle. We measured mRNA levels in white muscle of three minnow species, each at two temperatures: zebrafish (Danio rerio) acclimated to 11 and 30°C, goldfish (Carassius auratus) acclimated to 4 and 35°C, and northern redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos) collected in winter and summer. We hypothesized that temperature-induced changes in COX activity would be paralleled by COX nuclear-encoded subunit transcript abundance. However, we found mRNA for COX subunits showed pronounced differences in thermal responses. Though zebrafish COX activity did not change in the cold, the transcript levels of four subunits decreased significantly (COX5A1, 60% decrease; COX6A2, 70% decrease; COX6C, 50% decrease; COX7B, 55% decrease). Treatments induced changes in COX activity in both dace (2.9 times in winter fish) and goldfish (2.5 times in cold fish), but the response in transcript levels was highly variable. Some subunits failed to increase in one (goldfish COX7A2, dace COX6A2) or both (COX7B, COX6B2) species. Other transcripts increased 1.7–100 times. The most cold-responsive subunits were COX4-1 (7 and 21.3 times higher in dace and goldfish, respectively), COX5A1 (13.9 and 5 times higher), COX6B1 (6 and 10 times higher), COX6C (11 and 4 times higher) and COX7C (13.3 and 100 times higher). The subunits that most closely paralleled COX increases in the cold were COX5B2 (dace 2.5 times, goldfish 1.7 times) and COX6A2 (dace 4.1 times, goldfish 1.7 times). Collectively, these studies suggest that COX gene expression is not tightly coordinated during cold-induced mitochondrial remodelling in fish muscle. Further, they caution against arguments about the importance of transcriptional regulation based on measurement of mRNA levels of select subunits of multimeric proteins.


  • Duggan, Ana
  • Kocha, Katrinka M
  • Monk, Christopher T
  • Bremer, Katharina
  • Moyes, Christopher D

publication date

  • June 1, 2011