Antarctic Octopuses Stay Warm by Editing Proteins

Written by on January 15, 2012 in Marine Life

Emily Tripp
Senior Writer

A new study has shown how an octopus living in the frigid waters of the Antarctic keeps itself warm.

Low temperatures can affect the function of certain proteins that allow the nervous system to send signals.  Molecular neurophysiologist Joshua Rosenthal and his graduate student Sandra Garrett of the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus in San Juan, thought that the octopus would produce a different protein that functions more efficiently at lower temperatures.  “We thought we were going to see changes at the level of the gene,” Rosenthal says.

However, the octopus use a method called RNA editing to allow crucial nervous system proteins to function at low temperatures.  This paper is the first to show that RNA editing can lead to adaption.

“What our paper really adds,” Rosenthal says, “is that this process can be used to help adapt to the environment.”

The whole report can be found here: RNA Editing Underlies Temperature Adaption in Potassium Channels from Polar Octopuses.

Benthoctopus.  Photo Credit: NOAA.

Benthoctopus. Photo Credit: NOAA.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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