Are all tunas alike? It is true that they are all swift, powerful swimmers that benefit from high metabolic rates - and that in order to support these rates, they have evolved into a state of high heart rates. Consider the skipjack tuna, which has been clocked at a heart rate of over 200 beats-per-minute. But is the cardiac stamina of the cold water (endothermic) tuna, such as the bluefin, albacore and yellowfin, the same as that of its warm water (ecothermic) sister the mackerel? Why should it matter?
A research team from Stanford Universitys Tuna Research and Conservation Center has investigated the intrinsic differences among these tunas. Their findings suggest that a key step in the evolution of the tunas high heart and metabolic rates is the result of an increase a key protein –SERCA2. Their findings also suggest that high levels of the enzyme in the bluefish tunas heart may be important for its ability to retain its cardiac function at cold temperatures. While a better understanding of the tuna may seem of little consequence, what researchers learn about the adaptation of these magnificent fish helps us look beyond ourselves and to appreciate the lives of those living below sea level.
A New Study
This study reveals that distinct cellular differences in the expression of a key protein –SERCA2 – are associated with the beat-to-beat contraction of tuna and mackerel hearts. It suggests that there are fundamental differences in the way these fish initiate myocyte contraction, and provides further evidence for the role of the SR Ca2+-ATPase in cardiac function of tunas.
The American Physiological Society (APS) was founded in 1887 to foster basic and applied science, much of it relating to human health. The Bethesda, MD-based Society has more than 10,000 members and publishes 3,800 articles in its 14 peer-reviewed journals every year.
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