Histochemical and immunohistochemical studies on the origin of the blue marlin heater cell phenotype

Tissue Cell. 1997 Dec;29(6):627-42. doi: 10.1016/s0040-8166(97)80039-0.


The superior rectus muscle fibers of marlins, swordfish, sailfish and spearfish are modified for heat production at the expense of contractile ability. Although 'heater cells' are a muscle derivative (Block, 1986, 1991), the myoblast origin and developmental pathway of these thermogenic cells is unknown. To gain insight into heater cell origins, we characterized blue marlin superior rectus muscle and its heater tissue derivative with histochemical and immunological techniques. We specifically employed myosin ATPase and succinate dehydrogenase histochemical assays, and myosin heavy chain immunohistochemistry. Results revealed that marlin superior rectus muscles contain at least six distinct fiber types, and suggested the presence of both twitch and tonic fibers. Immunological results indicate that myosin is present within the thermogenic cells but not in myofibrillar lattices. The antibodies that recognized myosin in heater cells also labeled myosin in the twitch fibers of swimming muscle. In contrast, antibodies that labeled histologically defined tonic fibers did not label heater cells. These results suggest that heater cells and twitch fibers express the same myosin isoform, and establish a phenotypic connection between heater cells and twitch fibers. This conclusion is discussed in the context of the muscle-to-heater trajectory and the muscle fiber-type origin of heater cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / enzymology
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / enzymology
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / analysis
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / genetics
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / immunology
  • Oculomotor Muscles / cytology*
  • Oculomotor Muscles / enzymology*
  • Phenotype
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / metabolism


  • Succinate Dehydrogenase
  • Myosin Heavy Chains