In vivo protein synthesis rates were measured in the carpopodite extensor muscle of the shore crab, Carcinus maenas, following a single, high-dose injection of [3H]phenylalanine, which stabilized specific radioactivities in the free pools. In intermoult animals the percentage of protein mass synthesized per day (the fractional rate of protein synthesis) was 1.15% day−1 for the whole extensor muscle. The small, slow-type tonic fibres in the extensor had fractional rates of protein synthesis some 2.1 times higher than those of the large, fast-type phasic fibres.

Measurement of protein synthesis rates of extensor muscles from intermoult animals using an in vitro incubation over 2h gave fractional synthesis rates three times lower than those found in in vivo experiments. Compared with the intermoult animals, six- and three-fold increases in fractional synthesis rates were found in the extensor muscles from stages immediately preceding and following ecdysis, respectively. Microdissection of the muscle fibres revealed that the increased synthesis in postecdysial animals was occurring mainly at the external cuticular end of the muscle fibres. Autoradiographic analysis confirmed the cuticular end of the muscles as the major site of muscle protein synthesis. We conclude that the postecdysial increase in muscle fibre length and the associated increase in the sarcomere number is accompanied by an increase in protein synthesis in the muscles.

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