[MARMAM] New Publication: Not just fat: investigating the proteome of cetacean blubber tissue

Joanna Kershaw jk49 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Wed Feb 21 01:34:05 PST 2018

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to share our new open-access publication:

Kershaw, J. L. Botting, C. H. Brownlow, A. Hall, A. J. 2018 Not just fat:
investigating the proteome of cetacean blubber tissue. Conservation
Physiology. 6: 1.

Abstract:  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.

The full paper can be found at :

Best wishes,

Joanna Kershaw
Joanna Kershaw

Sea Mammal Research Unit
Scottish Oceans Institute
University of St Andrews
KY16 8LB

Twitter: @_SMRU_

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland : No
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