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Some like it hot: The role of heat in sea lampreys' sex lives
Date:6/27/2013

the slides of the rope tissue under a transmission electron microscope, she was again surprised. The cells weren't just normal white fat cells. She explains that white fats cells have a characteristic giant oil droplet whereas these cells clearly had several smaller droplets and were packed full of mitochondria (powerhouse organelles that produce energy). In fact, these fats cells looked remarkably similar to another, rare type of fat brown fat cells. To further characterise this fat, Chung-Davidson and her colleagues analysed what types of fatty acids and proteins were present in the cells. While the fatty acid profile looked remarkably similar to that of mammalian brown fat cells, the pattern of proteins varied a little.

All in all, however, the fat looked very similar to brown fat but it remained to be seen whether it had brown fat's defining trait the ability to produce heat. Chung-Davidson explains that this type of fat is usually found in mammals that need to maintain their own body temperature (unlike lampreys, whose body temperature varies with the environment). First the team looked for UCP-1, a protein that allows mitochondria to use fat to generate heat instead of energy they found that lampreys didn't express it but they did express UCP-2, a related protein. To directly test the thermogenic abilities of the rope tissue, Chung-Davidson implanted tiny probes into the rope tissue and some muscle tissue of sexually mature male lampreys. The team found that the rope temperature immediately rose by up to 0.3C when male lampreys encountered a female, with some getting hotter than others when encountering certain females. Whether they get hotter when more attracted and indeed what the role of this hot tissue is remain unknown-- regardless, perhaps lampreys could use the altered chat-up line: 'Is it hot in here or is it just me?'


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Contact: Michaela Handel
michaela@biologists.com
44-012-234-25525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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