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J Comp Physiol B. 2014 Apr;184(3):401-14. doi: 10.1007/s00360-013-0799-3. Epub 2014 Jan 10.

Substrate-specific changes in mitochondrial respiration in skeletal and cardiac muscle of hibernating thirteen-lined ground squirrels.

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Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada,


During torpor, the metabolic rate (MR) of thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) is considerably lower relative to euthermia, resulting in part from temperature-independent mitochondrial metabolic suppression in liver and skeletal muscle, which together account for ~40% of basal MR. Although heart accounts for very little (<0.5%) of basal MR, in the present study, we showed that respiration rates were decreased up to 60% during torpor in both subsarcolemmal (SS) and intermyofibrillar (IM) mitochondria from cardiac muscle. We further demonstrated pronounced seasonal (summer vs. winter [i.e., interbout] euthermia) changes in respiration rates in both mitochondrial subpopulations in this tissue, consistent with a shift in fuel use away from carbohydrates and proteins and towards fatty acids and ketones. By contrast, these seasonal changes in respiration rates were not observed in either SS or IM mitochondria isolated from hind limb skeletal muscle. Both populations of skeletal muscle mitochondria, however, did exhibit metabolic suppression during torpor, and this suppression was 2- to 3-fold greater in IM mitochondria, which provide ATP for Ca(2+)- and myosin ATPases, the activities of which are likely quite low in skeletal muscle during torpor because animals are immobile. Finally, these changes in mitochondrial respiration rates were still evident when standardized to citrate synthase activity rather than to total mitochondrial protein.

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