Is cold the new hot? Elevated ubiquitin-conjugated protein levels in tissues of Antarctic fish as evidence for cold-denaturation of proteins in vivo

J Comp Physiol B. 2007 Nov;177(8):857-66. doi: 10.1007/s00360-007-0183-2. Epub 2007 Aug 21.


Levels of ubiquitin (Ub)-conjugated proteins, as an index of misfolded or damaged proteins, were measured in notothenioid fishes, with both Antarctic (Trematomus bernacchii, T. pennellii, Pagothenia borchgrevinki) and non-Antarctic (Notothenia angustata, Bovichtus variegatus) distributions, as well as non-notothenioid fish from the Antarctic (Lycodichthys dearborni, Family Zoarcidae) and New Zealand (Bellapiscis medius, Family Tripterygiidae), in an effort to better understand the effect that inhabiting a sub-zero environment has on maintaining the integrity of the cellular protein pool. Overall, levels of Ub-conjugated proteins in cold-adapted Antarctic fishes were significantly higher than New Zealand fishes in gill, liver, heart and spleen tissues suggesting that life at sub-zero temperatures impacts protein homeostasis. The highest tissue levels of ubiquitinated proteins were found in the spleen of all fish. Ub conjugate levels in the New Zealand N. angustata, more closely resembled levels measured in other Antarctic fishes than levels measured in other New Zealand species, likely reflecting their recent shared ancestry with Antarctic notothenioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antarctic Regions
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Fish Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Gills / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Protein Denaturation / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*


  • Fish Proteins
  • Ubiquitin