The time course of early post-mortem biochemical processes in the abdominal muscle of a commercially important decapod crustacean (Nephrops norvegicus): implications for post-catch processing

S.G. Gornik, Amaya Albalat, R.J.A. Atkinson, Graham Coombs, D.M. Neil

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10 Citations (Scopus)


The post-mortem processes in the fast abdominal muscle of the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus have been investigated by simulating the first 24-h post-harvest in a controlled experiment. Tissue pH and the concentrations of arginine phosphate, glycogen, L-lactate, ATP, ADP, AMP, IMP, HxR, and Hx were measured at the time of sacrifice and 3, 6, 12 and 24 h thereafter. Additionally from the nucleotide values the corresponding adenylate energy charge (AEC) was calculated. The results reveal that the post-mortem biochemical processes in the abdomen of the Norway lobster after sacrifice and during storage at 10°C are comparable to those of vertebrates. It was found that arginine phosphate was depleted from 38.5 ± 5.2 to 10.9 ± 2.9 µmol g−1 within 3 h, and anaerobic glycolysis was enhanced, so that glycogen was depleted and L-lactate accumulated. The muscle pH decreased significantly from 7.6 ± 0.1 to 7.0 ± 0.15 within 20 min and then continued to decrease at a slower rate. Most interestingly, the ATP concentration was maintained at approximately 3.5 ± 0.3 µmol g−1 for up to 12 h post-mortem. This is unusually long and indicates a special characteristic of this fast-type crustacean muscle. AMP accumulated to a maximum after 12 h and was then slowly transformed into IMP. The AEC fell from an initial value of 0.88 to only 0.17 after 24 h. When viewed in context with the fishing industry the results demonstrate that when the product is tailed (removal of the cephalothorax) upon catch, as is common practice in this industry, the result will always be an extensive post-mortem glycolytic response that will lead to an unavoidable and rapid depletion of the energy reserves resulting in a product of lesser quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-256
Number of pages15
JournalMarine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • nephrops norvegicus
  • post-mortem autolysis
  • anaerobic metabolism
  • ATP breakdown
  • lactate

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