Heterothermal acclimation: An experimental paradigm for studying the control of thermal acclimation in crabs

Mirela Cuculescu, Timothy Pearson, David Hyde, Ken Bowler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


A method for the study of the control of the attainment of thermal acclimation has been applied to the crabs, Cancer pagurus and Carcinus maenas. Crabs were heterothermally acclimated by using an anterior-posterior partition between two compartments, one at 8°C and the other at 22°C. One compartment held a three-quarter section of the crab including the central nervous system (CNS), eye stalks, and ipsilateral legs; the other held a quarter section including the contralateral legs. Criteria used to assess the acclimation responses were comparisons of muscle plasma membrane fatty acid composition and 'fluidity.' In both species, the major fatty acids of phosphatidylcholine were 16:0, 18:1, 20:5, and 22:6, whereas phosphatidylethanolamine contained significantly less 16:0 but more 18:0; these fatty acids comprised 80% of the total. Differences in fatty acid composition were demonstrated between fractions obtained from the ipsilateral and contralateral legs from the same heterothermally acclimated individual. In all acclimation states (except 22CNS, phosphatidylcholine fraction), membrane lipid saturation was significantly increased with acclimation at 22°as compared with 8°C. Membrane fluidity was determined by using 1,3- diphenyl-1,3,5 hexatriene (DPH) fluorescence polarization. In both species, membranes from legs held at 8°were more fluid than from legs held at 22°C irrespective of the acclimation temperature of the CNS. Heterothermal acclimation demonstrated that leg muscle membrane composition and fluidity respond primarily to local temperature and were not predominately under central direction. The responses between 8°C- and 22°C-acclimated legs were more pronounced when the CNS was cold-acclimated, so a central influence cannot be excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6501-6505
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 1999
Externally publishedYes


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