RNA-seq analyses of cellular responses to elevated body temperature in the high Antarctic cryopelagic nototheniid fish Pagothenia borchgrevinki

Kevin T. Bilyk, C. H.Christina Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Through evolution in the isolated, freezing (-1.9°C) Southern Ocean, Antarctic notothenioid fish have become cold-adapted as well as cold-specialized. Notothenioid cold specialization is most evident in their limited tolerance to heat challenge, and an apparent loss of the near universal inducible heat shock (HSP70) response. Beyond these it remains unclear how broadly cold specialization pervades the underlying tissue-wide cellular responses. We report the first analysis of massively parallel RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to identify gene expression changes in the liver in response to elevated body temperature of a high-latitude Antarctic nototheniid, the highly cold-adapted and cold-specialized cryopelagic bald notothen, Pagothenia borchgrevinki. From a large (14,873) mapped set of qualified, annotated liver transcripts, we identified hundreds of significantly differentially expressed genes following two and four days of 4°C exposure, suggesting substantial transcriptional reorganization in the liver when body temperature was raised 5°C above native water temperature. Most notably, and in sharp contrast to heat stressed non-polar fish species, was a widespread down-regulation of nearly all classes of molecular chaperones including HSP70, as well as polyubiquitins that are associated with proteosomal degradation of damaged proteins. In parallel, genes involved in the cell cycle were down-regulated by day two of 4°C exposure, signifying slowing cellular proliferation; by day four, genes associated with transcriptional and translational machineries were down-regulated, signifying general slowing of protein biosynthesis. The log2 fold differential transcriptional changes are generally of small magnitudes but significant, and in total portray a broad down turn of cellular activities in response to four days of elevated body temperature in the cold-specialized bald notothen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Genomics
Issue numberPB
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • 4°C warming
  • Antarctic notothenioid
  • Cold-specialization
  • HSP down regulation
  • RNA-seq
  • Slowing cell cycle


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