DNA, DNA and RNA Ladders

The Octopus: A Master Of RNA Editing


Octopuses lack the ability to regulate their body temperature, which exposes their highly developed brains to potential risks caused by fluctuations in temperature. However, recent findings from researchers indicate that two-spot octopuses have evolved a remarkable adaptation mechanism to cope with seasonal temperature changes. They accomplish this by producing distinct neural proteins in response to warm and cool conditions. Interestingly, this adaptation is achieved through the process of RNA editing, which involves modifying the messenger molecules that transmit information from DNA to proteins. By engaging in this RNA editing process, the octopuses are believed to safeguard their brains from potential harm.

In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating world of the octopus and explore how its unique ability to edit its RNA molecules has made it a master of genetic flexibility and adaptation.

Magnificent Beings

Octopuses are enigmatic beings, often described as alien-like creatures that defy our expectations of how animals should behave. They possess a multitude of unique characteristics that set them apart from both terrestrial and marine creatures. One of their most remarkable features is their flexible tentacles, which not only serve as appendages but also possess a sensory capability akin to taste, allowing them to experience their surroundings in a distinct way. To top it off, while octopuses may be color-blind, their skin possesses the extraordinary ability to detect light independently—a trait that is unparalleled among other organisms.

  • Octopuses possess a mastery of disguise, utilizing their skin to change color and texture, enabling them to blend into their surroundings or intimidate rivals.
  • Octopuses exhibit an astonishing level of adaptability in their genetic instructions, being able to modify their genetic code through RNA editing.
  • RNA editing allows octopuses to alter the information encoded within their genes, providing them with a high degree of genetic adaptability.
  • Octopuses’ unruly genetic editing is unique and surpasses the genetic regulation seen in most other creatures. This unorthodox method of genetic modification contributes to the octopuses’ exceptional adaptability and resilience.
  • The extraordinary behaviors and genetic mechanisms of octopuses continue to captivate scientists and inspire further exploration.

With this said, it’s understandable that they’re the creatures that mastered the art of RNA editing for survival and well-being.

DNA Mutation Vs. RNA Editing

Compared to DNA mutations that facilitate long-term adaptations across generations, RNA editing provides a temporary and adaptable mechanism for individuals to respond to environmental changes. While RNA editing is present across various organisms, the phenomenon of RNA recoding, which involves alterations to the resulting protein structure, is relatively rare except in soft-bodied cephalopods like octopuses and squid. Humans possess millions of editing sites in their RNA, but these edits impact protein products in only approximately 3% of their genes. In contrast, coleoid or “smart” cephalopods extensively recode the majority of their neural proteins.

According to Rosenthal, an expert in the field, RNA recoding grants organisms the ability to selectively express a diverse array of proteins at specific times and locations, providing them with a unique advantage in responding to their environment.

The Correlation Between RNA Editing And Temperature Variation

To investigate the association between RNA editing and temperature variation, a team of researchers conducted a study using wild-caught adult octopuses in labs with the help of equipment like 125ml Erlenmeyer Flasks and DNA/RNA ladders. The octopuses were acclimated to either warm (22ºC) or cold (13ºC) waters in tanks at the Marine Biological Laboratory. After a few weeks, the researchers compared the RNA transcripts of the cold- and warm-acclimated octopuses to the genome, examining over 60,000 previously identified editing sites.

Co-senior author Eli Eisenberg, from Tel-Aviv University, who handled the computational aspects of the study, explained that temperature-sensitive editing occurred at approximately one-third of the sites, totaling over 20,000 individual locations. This finding revealed that temperature-sensitive RNA editing is not an isolated occurrence but a global phenomenon. However, the researchers observed that the editing did not happen equally across all proteins. They found that neural proteins, in particular, showed a higher degree of editing, and almost all temperature-sensitive sites were more heavily edited in colder temperatures.

Further analysis revealed that certain types of neural proteins, such as those associated with cell membranes and calcium-binding proteins, were more likely to be sensitive to temperature. This finding suggested a correlation between protein functions and their susceptibility to temperature-induced changes.

The Rate Of Changes

To explore the speed at which these changes occur, the researchers conducted experiments using juvenile octopuses. The tanks were gradually heated or cooled at a rate of 0.5°C per hour, with temperature measurements taken at various time points. The researchers were surprised to discover that RNA editing could occur rapidly, with significant changes observed in less than a day. Within four days, the edited RNA reached a new steady-state level, similar to what would typically be seen after a month.

The team also investigated whether this RNA recoding had an impact on protein structure and function. They focused on two critical proteins, kinesin, and synaptotagmin, which are vital for nervous system function. By comparing edited and unedited versions of these proteins, the researchers found evidence of structural changes induced by the RNA recoding, suggesting a direct influence on their function.

Furthermore, the researchers demonstrated that temperature-sensitive RNA editing occurs in wild octopuses in response to seasonal temperature fluctuations. Comparing wild octopuses captured during winter and summer, they observed similar patterns of temperature-sensitive RNA editing to those observed in the lab. This phenomenon was not limited to California two-spot octopuses but was also observed in the closely related Verrill’s two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculatus). The researchers believe that temperature-sensitive RNA editing is likely widespread among other octopuses and squid as well.

These findings shed light on the dynamic nature of RNA editing in response to temperature changes and provide insights into the adaptability of cephalopods. The ability to swiftly modify RNA through editing enables these creatures to cope with environmental fluctuations, highlighting the fascinating and intricate mechanisms at play in their biology.

Wrapping Up

The octopus serves as a constant reminder that nature is filled with extraordinary creatures that challenge our understanding and ignite our curiosity. Through their exceptional behaviors and genetic processes, octopuses inspire us to explore and appreciate the limitless wonders that await our discovery. Are you ready to take your research work to the next level? Look no further than MBP Inc.! With our innovative solutions and high-quality lab equipment like Erlenmeyer Flasks and centrifuges, we can help you get results with ease.

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