Marlins, sailfish, spearfishes, and swordfish have extraocular muscles that are modified into thermogenic organs beneath the brain. The modified muscle cells, called heater cells, lack organized myofibrils and are densely packed with sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR), transverse (T) tubules, and mitochondria. Thermogenesis in the modified extraocular muscle fibers is hypothesized to be associated with increased energy turnover due to Ca2+ cycling at the SR. In this study, the proteins associated with sequestering and releasing Ca2+ from the SR (ryanodine receptor, Ca2+ ATPase, calsequestrin) of striated muscle cells were characterized in the heater SR using immunoblot and immunofluorescent techniques. Immunoblot analysis with a monoclonal antibody that recognizes both isoforms of nonmammalian RYRs indicates that the fish heater cells express only the alpha RYR isoform. The calcium dependency of [3H]ryanodine binding to the RYR isoform expressed in heater indicates functional identity with the non-mammalian alpha RYR isoform. Fluorescent labeling demonstrates that the RYR is localized in an anastomosing network throughout the heater cell cytoplasm. Measurements of oxalate supported 45Ca2+ uptake, Ca2+ ATPase activity, and [32P]phosphoenzyme formation demonstrate that the SR contains a high capacity for Ca2+ uptake via an ATP dependent enzyme. Immunoblot analysis of calsequestrin revealed a significant amount of the Ca2+ binding protein in the heater cell SR. The present study provides the first direct evidence that the heater SR system contains the proteins necessary for Ca2+ release, re-uptake and sequestration, thus supporting the hypothesis that thermogenesis in the modified muscle cells is achieved via an ATP-dependent cycling of Ca2+ between the SR and cytosolic compartments.

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