Western painted turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii) are the most anoxia-tolerant tetrapod. Survival time improves at low temperature and during ontogeny, such that adults acclimated to 3°C survive far longer without oxygen than either warm-acclimated adults or cold-acclimated hatchlings. As protein synthesis is rapidly suppressed to save energy at the onset of anoxia exposure, this study tested the hypothesis that cold acclimation would evoke preparatory changes in protein expression to support enhanced anoxia survival in adult but not hatchling turtles. To test this, adult and hatchling turtles were acclimated to either 20°C (warm) or 3°C (cold) for 5 weeks, and then the heart ventricles were collected for quantitative proteomic analysis. The relative abundance of 1316 identified proteins was compared between temperatures and developmental stages. The effect of cold acclimation on the cardiac proteome was only evident in the context of an interaction with life stage, suggesting that ontogenic differences in anoxia tolerance may be predicated on successful maturation of the heart. The main differences between the hatchling and adult cardiac proteomes reflect an increase in metabolic scope with age that included more myoglobin and increased investment in both aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways. Mitochondrial structure and function were key targets of the life stage- and temperature-induced changes to the cardiac proteome, including reduced Complex II proteins in cold-acclimated adults that may help down-regulate the electron transport system and avoid succinate accumulation during anoxia. Therefore, targeted cold-induced changes to the cardiac proteome may be a contributing mechanism for stage-specific anoxia tolerance in turtles.

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