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Microsc Res Tech. 2008 Aug;71(8):564-72. doi: 10.1002/jemt.20587.

Hibernation as a far-reaching program for the modulation of RNA transcription.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Morfologico-Biomediche, Sezione di Anatomia e Istologia, University of Verona, Verona, Italy.


In eukaryotic cells, pre-mRNAs undergo several transformation steps to generate mature mRNAs ready to be exported to the cytoplasm. The molecular and structural apparatus for mRNA production is generally able to promptly respond to variations of metabolic demands. Hibernating mammals, which periodically enter a hypometabolic state, represent an interesting physiological model to investigate the adaptive morpho-functional modifications of the pre-mRNA transcriptional and processing machinery under extreme metabolic conditions. In this study, the subnuclear distribution of some transcriptional, splicing, and cleavage factors was investigated by ultrastructural immunocytochemistry in cell nuclei of the liver (a highly metabolizing organ involved in multiple regulatory functions) and the brown adipose tissue (responsible for nonshivering thermogenesis) from euthermic, hibernating, and arousing hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius). Our observations demonstrate that, during hibernation, transcriptional activity significantly decreases and pre-mRNA processing factors undergo an intranuclear redistribution moving to domains usually devoid of such molecules; moreover, in hepatocytes, there is a preferential accumulation of pre-mRNAs at the splicing stage, whereas, in brown adipocytes, pre-mRNAs are mainly stored at the cleavage stage. Upon arousal, the pre-mRNAs at the cleavage stage are immediately utilized, while the maturation of pre-mRNAs at the splicing stage seems to be restored before transcription had taken place. Our data suggest a programmed intranuclear reorganization of the RNA maturation machinery aimed at efficiently and rapidly restoring the pre-mRNA processing, and, consequently, the specific cellular activities upon arousal. Once again natural hibernation appears as a highly programmed hypometabolic state rather than a simple fall of metabolic and physiological functions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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