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J Exp Biol. 2011 Apr 15;214(Pt 8):1276-82. doi: 10.1242/jeb.052704.

Reversible remodeling of lung tissue during hibernation in the Syrian hamster.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, PO Box 196, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.


During hibernation, small rodents such as hamsters cycle through phases of strongly suppressed metabolism with low body temperature (torpor) and full restoration of metabolism and body temperature (arousal). Remarkably, the repetitive stress of cooling-rewarming and hypoxia does not cause irreversible organ damage. To identify adaptive mechanisms protecting the lungs, we assessed histological changes as well as the expression and localization of proteins involved in tissue remodeling in lungs from Syrian hamsters at different phases of hibernation using immunohistochemical staining and western blot analysis. In torpor (early and late) phase, a reversible increased expression of smooth muscle actin, collagen, angiotensin converting enzyme and transforming growth factor-β was found, whereas expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor and caveolin-1 was low. Importantly, all these alterations were restored during arousal. This study demonstrates substantial alterations in protein expression mainly in epithelial cells of lungs from hibernating Syrian hamsters. These structural changes of the bronchial airway structure are termed airway remodeling and often occur in obstructive lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung fibrosis. Unraveling the molecular mechanism leading to reversal of airway remodeling by the end of torpor may identify possible therapeutic targets to reduce progression of this process in patients suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung fibrosis.

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