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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2001 Oct;281(4):R1186-92.

Expression of a chimeric retroviral-lipase mRNA confers enhanced lipolysis in a hibernating mammal.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7614, USA.


Hibernating mammals can survive several months without feeding by limiting their carbohydrate catabolism and using triacylglycerols stored in white adipose tissue (WAT) as their primary source of fuel. Here we show that a lipolytic enzyme normally found in the gut, pancreatic triacylglycerol lipase (PTL), is expressed in WAT of hibernating 13-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus). PTL expressed in WAT is encoded by an unusual chimeric retroviral-PTL mRNA approximately 500 bases longer than the predominant PTL message found in other ground squirrel tissues. Seasonal measurements detect the chimeric mRNA and PTL enzymatic activity in WAT before and during hibernation, with both showing their lowest observed levels 1 wk after hibernation concludes in mid-March. PTL is expressed in addition to hormone-sensitive lipase, the enzyme typically responsible for hydrolysis of triacylglycerols in WAT. Because of the distinct catalytic and regulatory properties of both enzymes, this dual-triacylglycerol lipase system provides a means by which the fuel requirements of hibernating 13-lined ground squirrels can be met without interruption.

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