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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Temperature-dependent modification of muscle precursor cell behaviour is an underlying reason for lasting effects on muscle cellularity and body growth of teleost fish
Peter Steinbacher, Julia Marschallinger, Astrid Obermayer, Alois Neuhofer, Alexandra M. Sänger, Walter Stoiber


Temperature is an important factor influencing teleost muscle growth, including a lasting (‘imprinted’) influence of embryonic thermal experience throughout all further life. However, little is known about the cellular processes behind this phenomenon. The study reported here used digital morphometry and immunolabelling for Pax7, myogenin and H3P to quantitatively examine the effects of thermal history on muscle precursor cell (MPC) behaviour and muscle growth in pearlfish (Rutilus meidingeri) until the adult stage. Fish were reared at three different temperatures (8.5, 13 and 16°C) until hatching and subsequently kept under the same (ambient) thermal conditions. Cellularity data were combined with a quantitative analysis of Pax7+ MPCs including those that were mitotically active (Pax7+/H3P+) or had entered differentiation (Pax7+/myogenin+). The results demonstrate that at hatching, body lengths, fast and slow muscle cross-sectional areas and fast fibre numbers are lower in fish reared at 8.5 and 13°C than at 16°C. During the larval period, this situation changes in the 13°C-fish, so that these fish are finally the largest. The observed effects can be related to divergent cellular mechanisms at the MPC level that are initiated in the embryo during the imprinting period. Embryos of 16°C-fish have reduced MPC proliferation but increased differentiation, and thus give rise to larger hatchlings. However, their limited MPC reserves finally lead to smaller adults. By contrast, embryos of 13°C-fish and, to a lesser extent, 8.5°-fish, show enhanced MPC proliferation but reduced differentiation, thus leading to smaller hatchlings but allowing for a larger MPC pool that can be used for enhanced post-hatching growth, finally resulting in larger adults.



    cross-sectional area
    days post-fertilisation
    days post-hatching
    phosphohistone H3
    muscle precursor cell
    paired box transcription factor 7
    standard length
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