Temperature and the expression of seven muscle-specific protein genes during embryogenesis in the Atlantic cod Gadus morhua L

Thomas E. Hall*, Nicholas J. Cole, Ian A. Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Seven cDNA clones coding for different muscle-specific proteins (MSPs) were isolated from the fast muscle tissue of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua L. In situ hybridization using cRNA probes was used to characterize the temporal and spatial patterns of gene expression with respect to somite stage in embryos incubated at 4°C, 7°C and 10°C. MyoD transcripts were first observed in the presomitic mesoderm prior to somite formation, and in the lateral compartment of the forming somites. MyoD expression was not observed in the adaxial cells that give rise to the slow muscle layer, and expression was undetectable by in situ hybridization in the lateral somitic mesoderm after the 35-somite stage, during development of the final ∼15 somites. RT-PCR analysis, however, confirmed the presence of low levels of the transcript during these later stages. A phylogenetic comparison of the deduced amino-acid sequences of the full-length MyoD cDNA clone and those from other teleosts, and inference from the in situ expression pattern suggested homology with a second paralogue (MyoD2) recently isolated from the gilthead seabream Sparus aurata. Following MyoD expression, α-actin was the first structural gene to be switched on at the 16-somite stage, followed by myosin heavy chain, troponin T, troponin I and muscle creatine kinase. The final mRNA in the series to be expressed was troponin C. All genes were switched on prior to myofibril assembly. The troponin C sequence was unusual in that it showed the greatest sequence identity with the rainbow trout Oncorhynchm mykiss cardiac/slow form, but was expressed in the fast myotomal muscle and not in the heart. In addition, the third TnC calcium binding site showed a lower level of sequence conservation than the rest of the sequence. No differences were seen in the timing of appearance or rate of posterior progression (relative to somite stage) of any MSP transcripts between embryos raised at the different temperatures. It was concluded that myofibrillar genes are activated asynchronously in a distinct temporal order prior to myofibrillar assembly and that this process was highly canalized over the temperature range studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3187-3200
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Cod
  • Creatine kinase
  • Development
  • Gadus morhua
  • in situ hybridization
  • Muscle
  • MyoD
  • Myofibril
  • Myosin
  • Temperature
  • Troponin


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