Lipid compositional correlates of temperature-adaptive interspecific differences in membrane physical structure

James A. Logue, Art L. De Vries, Elfrieda Fodor, Andrew R. Cossins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Teleost species from cold environments possess more disordered brain synaptic membranes than species from warm habitats, thereby providing equivalent physical structures at their respective habitat temperatures. We have related this adaptive interspecific biophysical response to the fatty acid composition of brain membranes from 17 teleost species obtained from Antarctic, temperate and semi-tropical waters, as well as from rat and turkey as representative homeotherms. Cold-adaptive increases in membrane disorder (determined by fluorescence anisotropy with diphenylhexatriene as probe) were correlated with large and linear increases in the proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, from 35 to 60% in phosphatidylcholine (PtdCho) and from 55 to 85% in phosphatidylethanolamine (PtdEth). For PtdCho, the cold-adaptive increase in unsaturation was associated almost entirely with increased proportions (from 7 to 40%) of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), with mono-unsaturates (MUFAs) providing an approximately constant proportion in all species. Exactly opposite effects were evident for phosphatidylethanolamine (PtdEth). Thus, the compositional adaptation for PtdCho occurred largely by exchange of polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acid in the sn-2 position, whilst for PtdEth it involved exchanges between saturates and mono-unsaturates at the sn-1 position. This difference may be related to the different molecular shapes of the two phosphoglycerides and the need to maintain the balance between bilayer-stabilising and -destabilising tendencies. This comparative study provides a more comprehensive view of the compositional adjustments that accompany and perhaps account for temperature-adaptive interspecific differences in membrane physical structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2105-2115
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2000


  • Brain
  • DPH
  • Fatty acid unsaturation
  • Fluorescence anisotropy
  • Membrane
  • Molecular species
  • Phosphatidylcholine
  • Phosphatidylethanolamine
  • Temperature adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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