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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2008 Jul;295(1):R316-28. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00418.2007. Epub 2008 Apr 23.

Proteomic analysis of the winter-protected phenotype of hibernating ground squirrel intestine.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.


The intestine of hibernating ground squirrels is protected against damage by ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury. This resistance does not depend on the low body temperature of torpor; rather, it is exhibited during natural interbout arousals that periodically return hibernating animals to euthermia. Here we use fluorescence two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (DIGE) to identify protein spot differences in intestines of 13-lined ground squirrels in the sensitive and protected phases of the circannual hibernation cycle, comparing sham-treated control animals with those exposed to I/R. Protein spot differences distinguished the sham-treated summer and hibernating samples, as well as the response to I/R between summer and hibernating intestines. The majority of protein changes among these groups were attributed to a seasonal difference between summer and winter hibernators. Many of the protein spots that differed were unambiguously identified by high-pressure liquid chromatography followed by tandem mass spectrometry of their constituent peptides. Western blot analysis confirmed significant upregulation for three of the proteins, albumin, apolipoprotein A-I, and ubiquitin hydrolase L1, that were identified in the DIGE analysis as increased in sham-treated hibernating squirrels compared with sham-treated summer squirrels. This study identifies several candidate proteins that may contribute to hibernation-induced protection of the gut during natural torpor-arousal cycles and experimental I/R injury. It also reveals the importance of enterocyte maturation in defining the hibernating gut proteome and the role of changing cell populations for the differences between sham and I/R-treated summer animals.

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