The degradation of proteins in pinniped skeletal muscle: Viability of post-mortem tissue in physiological research




Moore, Colby D.
Fahlman, Andreas
Crocker, Daniel
Robbins, Kathleen A.
Trumble, Stephen


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Oxford Academic


As marine divers, pinnipeds have a high capacity for exercise at depth while holding their breath. With finite access to oxygen, these species need to be capable of extended aerobic exercise and conservation of energy. Pinnipeds must deal with common physiological hurdles, such as hypoxia, exhaustion and acidosis, that are common to all exercising mammals. The physiological mechanisms in marine mammals used for managing oxygen and carbon dioxide have sparked much research, but access to animals and tissues is difficult and requires permits. Deceased animals that are either bycaught or stranded provide one potential source for tissues, but the validity of biochemical data from post-mortem samples has not been rigorously assessed. Tissues collected from stranded diving mammals may be a crucial source to add to our limited knowledge on the physiology of some of these animals and important to the conservation and management of these species. We aim to determine the reliability of biochemical assays derived from post-mortem tissue and to promote the immediate sampling of stranded animals for the purpose of physiological research. In this study, we mapped the temporal degradation of muscle enzymes from biopsied Northern elephant seals ( Mirounga angustirostris ) and highlight recommendations for storage protocols for the best preservation of tissue. We also compared the enzymatic activity of different muscle groups (pectoral and latissimus dorsi) in relation to locomotion and measured the effects of four freeze–thaw cycles on muscle tissue enzyme function. Results indicate that enzymatic activity fluctuates greatly, especially with varying storage temperature, storage time, species and muscle group being assayed. In contrast, proteins, such as myoglobin, remain relatively continuous in their increase at 4°C for 48 h. Stranded animals can be a valuable source of biochemical data, but enzyme assays should be used only with great caution in post-mortem tissues.



proteins, skeletal muscle, tissue, physiology



Attribution 4.0 International


Moore, C.D., Fahlman, A., Crocker, D.E., Robbins, K.A. and Trumble, S.J., 2015. The degradation of proteins in pinniped skeletal muscle: viability of post-mortem tissue in physiological research. Conservation Physiology, 3(1), p.cov019.