A tail of two voltages: Proteomic comparison of the three electric organs of the electric eel. Academic Article uri icon


  • The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) is unusual among electric fishes because it has three pairs of electric organs that serve multiple biological functions: For navigation and communication, it emits continuous pulses of weak electric discharge (<1 V), but for predation and defense, it intermittently emits lethal strong electric discharges (10 to 600 V). We hypothesized that these two electrogenic outputs have different energetic demands reflected by differences in their proteome and phosphoproteome. We report the use of isotope-assisted quantitative mass spectrometry to test this hypothesis. We observed novel phosphorylation sites in sodium transporters and identified a potassium channel with unique differences in protein concentration among the electric organs. In addition, we found transcription factors and protein kinases that show differential abundance in the strong versus weak electric organs. Our findings support the hypothesis that proteomic differences among electric organs underlie differences in energetic needs, reflecting a trade-off between generating weak voltages continuously and strong voltages intermittently.

published proceedings

  • Sci Adv

altmetric score

  • 99.3

author list (cited authors)

  • Traeger, L. L., Sabat, G., Barrett-Wilt, G. A., Wells, G. B., & Sussman, M. R

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Traeger, Lindsay L||Sabat, Grzegorz||Barrett-Wilt, Gregory A||Wells, Gregg B||Sussman, Michael R

publication date

  • July 2017