Edwin R. Price, Tushar S. Sirsat, Sarah K. G. Sirsat, and Edward M. Dzialowski

Sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) is a transmembrane pump critical to muscle calcium cycling during contraction, and SERCA has also been proposed as the basis for a non-shivering thermogenesis mechanism in birds. Despite its potential importance to both shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis, the activity of this transporter has rarely been studied in altricial birds, and never during the developmental transition from ectothermy to endothermy. Here, we describe SERCA activity in the pectoralis muscle and heart ventricle of red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) nestlings, fledglings and adults. Additionally, using a diet manipulation, we tested the hypothesis that muscle SERCA activity is affected by dietary fatty acid composition, as has been shown in some previous studies. In blackbird hearts, SERCA activity increased throughout development and into adulthood, conspicuously jumping higher just prior to fledging. In pectoralis muscle, SERCA activity increased throughout the nestling period, but then declined after fledging, an effect we attribute to remodeling of the muscle from a primarily heat-generating organ to a primarily force-generating organ. SERCA activity of the pectoralis muscle was correlated with the proportion of linoleic acid in muscle phospholipids when including all ages in the control group. However, in diet-manipulated birds, there was no consistent relationship between SERCA activity and muscle membrane fatty acid composition at any tested age (5–9 days old). It is unclear whether SERCA might be affected by developmental changes in fatty acid composition at younger ages.

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