Contribution of increasing plasma membrane to the energetic cost of early zebrafish embryogenesis

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Jonathan Rodenfels - (Author)
  • Pablo Satori - (Author)
  • Karla Neugebauer - (Author)
  • Jonathon Howard - (Author)


How do early embryos allocate the resources stored in the sperm and egg? Recently, we established isothermal calorimetry to measure heat dissipation by living zebra­fish embryos and to estimate the energetics of specific developmental events. During the reductive cleavage divisions, the rate of heat dissipation increases from ∼60 nJ · s−1 at the two-cell stage to ∼90 nJ · s−1 at the 1024-cell stage. Here we ask which cellular process(es) drive this increasing energetic cost. We present evidence that the cost is due to the increase in the total surface area of all the cells of the embryo. First, embryo volume stays constant during the cleavage stage, indicating that the increase is not due to growth. Second, the heat increase is blocked by nocodazole, which inhibits DNA replication, mitosis, and cell division; this suggests some aspect of cell proliferation contributes to these costs. Third, the heat increases in proportion to the total cell surface area rather than total cell number. Fourth, the heat increase falls within the range of the estimated costs of maintaining and assembling plasma membranes and associated proteins. Thus, the increase in total plasma membrane associated with cell proliferation is likely to contribute appreciably to the total energy budget of the embryo.


Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Biology of the Cell
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes

External IDs

Scopus 85082144615