Within-winter flexibility in muscle masses, myostatin, and cellular aerobic metabolic intensity in passerine birds


Metabolic rates of passerine birds are flexible traits that vary both seasonally and among and within winters. Seasonal variation in summit metabolic rates (Msum = maximum thermoregulatory metabolism) in birds is consistently correlated with changes in pectoralis muscle and heart masses and sometimes with variation in cellular aerobic metabolic intensity, so these traits might also be associated with shorter-term, within-winter variation in metabolic rates. To determine whether these mechanisms are associated with within-winter variation in Msum, we examined the effects of short-term (ST; 0–7 d), medium-term (MT; 14–30 d), and long-term (LT; 30-yr means) temperature variables on pectoralis muscle and heart masses, pectoralis expression of the muscle-growth inhibitor myostatin and its me-talloproteinase activators TLL-1 and TLL-2, and pectoralis and heart citrate synthase (CS; an indicator of cellular aerobic metabolic intensity) activities for two temperate-zone resident passerines, house sparrows (Passer domesticus) and dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis). For both species, pectoralis mass residuals were positively correlated with ST temperature variables, suggesting that cold temperatures resulted in increased turnover of pectoralis muscle, but heart mass showed little within-winter variation for either species. Pectoralis mRNA and protein expression of myostatin and the TLLs were only weakly correlated with ST and MT temperature variables, which is largely consistent withtrends in muscle masses for bothspecies. Pectoralis and heart CS activities showed weak and variable trends with ST temperature variables in both species, suggesting only minor effects of temperature variation on cellular aerobic metabolic intensity. Thus, neither muscle or heart masses, regulation by the myostatin system, nor cellular aerobic metabolic intensity varied consistently with winter temperature, suggesting that other factors regulate within-winter metabolic variation in these birds.

Publication Title

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology