Is digestive capacity limiting growth at low temperatures in roach?
In roach Rutilus rutilus growth ceases below a temperature threshold of 12° C. This cessation of growth is accompanied by a reduction in feeding. Do roach decrease feeding in the cold because of reduced energy demand, caused by the decelerating effect of low temperature on metabolism and growth, or is feeding directly limited by low temperatures, leading to reduced growth rates? It was found that at low temperatures the intake and digestion of food may be limited by reduced activities of digestive enzymes. Trypsin, amylase and γ-glutamyl transferase showed a negative compensation with respect to temperature, resulting in very low activities at acclimation temperatures of ≤12° C. Trypsin activity, falling from 400·5 ± 131·2 U g−1 fresh mass of the gut at 27° C to 12·5 U g−1 fresh mass at 4° C, displayed the strongest linear correlation with growth rates, suggesting that trypsin activities may set a limit to growth in the low temperature range. If protein digestion is limiting at low temperatures, this should be reflected in reduced concentrations of amino acid in the white muscle. The size of the total amino acid pool was not affected by temperature acclimation and ranged between 19·2 ± 6·2 and 25·2 ± 3·6 µmol g−1 fresh mass of the white muscle. A decrease, however, was found of several amino acids, mainly of threonine and glutamine, in the low temperature range. Low concentrations of the essential amino acid threonine (0·14 ± 0·03 µmol g−1 fresh mass at 12° C and 0·12 ± 0·05 µmol g−1 fresh mass at 4° C) were probably due to nutritional or digestional limitations and may therefore have resulted from reduced trypsin activity in the cold. The non-essential amino acid glutamine, however, can be endogenously synthesized and its low level observed at 4° C (0·16 ± 0·09 µmol g−1 fresh mass) was not necessarily a result of low trypsin activities. It is more likely that low temperatures impair glutamine synthesis. The possibility that glutamine concentrations may be down regulated under conditions when anabolic processes are not advantageous is discussed.