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RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

Octopuses use RNA editing to alter protein function to adapt to changes in temperature, a new study in Cell reports. Researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and elsewhere had six California two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculoides) — which harbor a large number of RNA editing sites — acclimate to warm water and six acclimate to cool water. Following this, they extracted RNA from their stellate ganglia for analysis. Octopuses in the cooler water, they found, underwent more RNA editing, as more than 13,000 codons were affected in the cold-water octopuses, as compared to 550 sites in the warm-water octopuses. Among the genes whose expression were affected by this "recoding," as the researchers describe it, were ones involved in neural functions, including, for instance, kinesin-1 and synaptotagmin. "We're used to thinking all living things are preprogrammed from birth with a certain set of instructions," senior author Joshua Rosenthal from MBL says in a statement. "The idea the environment can influence that genetic information, as we've shown in cephalopods, is a new concept."