Soft-shelled blue crabs are a delicacy enjoyed by food lovers each spring and early summer when the crustaceans naturally molt their hard outer shell in the wild. Molting is the process by which the crab discards its exoskeleton, replacing it with a temporarily soft, pliable new exoskeleton that is easy to eat.
Despite being limited by the crab’s annual molting patterns, the blue crab fishing industry is valued at nearly $50 million a year in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The ability to manipulate molting, or facilitate molting on demand, could make the blue crab available to consumers year-round, potentially boosting the industry’s overall economic impact.
UAB biologist and researcher Doug Watson, Ph.D., and his research team believe they have identified the blue crab molt-inhibiting hormone (MIH) receptor, a key protein in the cellular pathway that controls molting. They are testing a compound designed to block the MIH receptor in the hopes of inducing molting.
“No one yet has isolated or characterized this MIH receptor for any crustacean, but we think we have isolated a gene that codes for that receptor,” Watson says. “We’re not 100 percent sure yet, but the gene we have cloned has all the characteristics of the MIH receptor. We’re trying to determine for sure if it is.”
Conceivably, then the growth of the animals could be controlled, and this could create jobs and stimulate local economies through private aquaculture or farming operations across every state touching the ocean – from Texas to Maryland, Watson says.
“Induced molting probably would have to take place in an aquaculture setting because it would be difficult to control in the wild,” Watson says. “Once the blue crabs molt in the wild they are very vulnerable to predators because their shell is so soft.”
The identification and characterization of the MIH receptor also would constitute a significant contribution to the field of invertebrate endocrinology.
“That’s the basic science and a key to answering the question of how growth and development are regulated in this group of organisms with so much ecological and economical importance,” Watson says.
Watson says they will either need to develop an injection or food pellet that could be used to induce the molting process.
Watson’s research is being conducted through a two-year grant funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and a pilot grant from the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering at UAB. His research team includes colleagues Teruaki Nakatsuji, Junying Zheng and current UAB graduate students Hsiang-Yin Chen and Anna Pendleton.
About the UAB Department of Biology
The UAB Department of Biology is a dynamic academic partnership that provides a broad-based graduate and undergraduate curriculum. Most members of the graduate faculty have research specialties in comparative biochemistry, physiology and eco-physiology of aquatic organisms. A second, important department research focus is environmental microbiology.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all consecutive references.
Andrew Hayenga | Newswise Science News
How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung
Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine