Not just fat: investigating the proteome of cetacean blubber tissue
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Mammalian adipose tissue is increasingly being recognized as an endocrine organ involved in the regulation of a number of metabolic processes and pathways. It responds to signals from different hormone systems and the central nervous system, and expresses a variety of protein factors with important paracrine and endocrine functions. This study presents a first step towards the systematic analysis of the protein content of cetacean adipose tissue, the blubber, in order to investigate the kinds of proteins present and their relative abundance. Full depth blubber subsamples were collected from dead-stranded harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) (n = 21). Three total protein extraction methods were trialled, and the highest total protein yields with the lowest extraction variability were achieved using a RIPA cell lysis and extraction buffer based protocol. Extracted proteins were separated using 1D Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and identified using nanoflow Liquid Chromatography Electrospray Ionization in tandem with Mass Spectrometry (nLC-ESI–MS/MS). A range of proteins were identified (n = 295) and classed into eight functional groups, the most abundant of which were involved in cell function and metabolism (45%), immune response and inflammation (15%) and lipid metabolism (11%). These proteins likely originate both from the various cell types within the blubber tissue itself, and from the circulation. They therefore have the potential to capture information on the cellular and physiological stresses experienced by individuals at the time of sampling. The importance of this proteomic approach is two-fold: Firstly, it could help to assign novel functions to marine mammal blubber in keeping with current understanding of the multi-functional role of adipose tissue in other mammals. Secondly, it could lead to the development of a suite of biomarkers to better monitor the physiological state and health of live individuals though remote blubber biopsy sampling.
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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