According to researchers, octopuses can rebuild their brains to adapt to environmental and temperature changes, but how?
Octopuses are aquatic animals with a unique ability to protect their nervous system against extreme temperature changes. They can rapidly regenerate key proteins in their nerve cells, ensuring that vital neural activity remains active under the impact of extreme temperature drops.
This process happens by editing their RNA, a rare ability found in some species of octopus and squid. RNA recoding allows organisms to absorb different types of proteins at the desired time and place.
In cephalopods, remodeling often occurs for proteins that play a critical role in nervous system function. Their ability to recode has led scientists to wonder how this trait can be used to adapt to environmental changes.
For this purpose, researchers changed the temperature of two octopus habitats in California to 22°C and then to 13°C. In the next step, their genetic information was compared with the genome in the database. By examining more than 60 edited points, they found that temperature-related corrections occurred in about 20,000 points.
The proteins that are modified and adapted in this way are usually of the neuronal type, and almost all regions that are sensitive to temperature undergo more changes in the cold to adapt to the environment. This modification appears to be in response to acclimation to cold water instead of warm water, which affects neural proteins responsible for the lower temperature.
Scientists also conducted another experiment to check the speed of the mentioned changes. They changed the temperature of the octopus tank from 14°C to 24°C and vice versa, increasing or decreasing it by 0.5°C over 20 hours.
They then tested the amount of RNA modification in the brains of each octopus just before the start of the temperature change, after, and four days later. In this way, the researchers found that significant changes can occur in less than a day, and within four days, they are in a new stable range that will last for at least a month.
These findings suggest that at least one of the functions of RNA modification in cephalopods is a rapid response to conditions to which non-adaptation can be dangerous for the organism. RNA editing is a relatively widespread strategy among octopuses and squid to survive environmental changes, and now scientists are trying to understand how they use this process in more detail.