Activities of key metabolic enzymes in the heater organs of scombroids fishes

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The Journal of experimental biology




Maximal in vitro activities of key metabolic enzymes were measured in brain and eye heaters of five species of scombroid fishes. Istiophorid billfishes (blue marlin, striped marlin and Mediterranean spearfish), xiphiid billfishes (Pacific and Mediterranean stocks) and a scombrid fish (butterfly mackerel) were included in the analysis. Our main objectives were (1) to assess the maximum possible substrate flux in heater tissue, and (2) to determine what metabolic substrates could fuel heat production. Heater tissue of all scombroids examined showed extremely high oxidative capacity. Activities of citrate synthase, a commonly measured index of oxidative metabolism, included the highest value ever reported for vertebrate tissue. In most billfishes, citrate synthase activities were similar to or higher than those found for mammalian cardiac and avian flight muscle. Marker enzymes for aerobic carbohydrate metabolism (hexokinase) and fatty acid metabolism (carnitine palmitoyltransferase and 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase) also displayed extraordinarily high activities. Activities of carnitine palmitoyltransferase measured in heater organs were among the highest reported for vertebrates. These results indicate that heat production could be fueled aerobically by either lipid or carbohydrate metabolism. Inter- and intraspecifically, heater organs of fishes from the colder Mediterranean waters had a higher aerobic capacity and, hence, a greater heat-generating potential, than fishes from the warmer waters of the Pacific. This difference may be attributed to different thermal environments or it may result from allometry, since fishes caught in the Mediterranean were considerably smaller than those caught in the Pacific.