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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1989 Jan 18;988(1):123-46.

Membrane function in mammalian hibernation.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, CA 92350.


For homeotherms the maintenance of a high, uniform body temperature requires a constant energy supply and food intake. For many small mammals, the loss of heat in winter exceeds energy supply, particularly when food is scarce. To survive, some animals have developed a capacity for adaptive hypothermia in which they lower their body temperature to a new regulatory set-point, usually a few degrees above the ambient. This process, generally known as hibernation, reduces the temperature differential, metabolic activity, as well as the energy demand, and thus facilitates survival during winter. Successful hibernation in mammals requires that the enzymatic processes are regulated in such a manner that metabolic balance is maintained at both the high body temperature of the summer-active animal (37 degrees C) and the low body temperature of the winter-torpid animal (approx. 5 degrees C). This means that the cellular membranes have thermal properties capable of maintaining a balanced metabolism at these extreme physiological temperatures. The available evidence indicates that, for some tissues, preparation for hibernation involves an alteration in the lipid composition and thermal properties of cellular membranes. Marked differences in the thermal response of cellular membranes have been observed on a seasonal basis and, in some membranes, differences in lipid composition have been associated with the torpid state. However, to date, no consistent changes in lipid composition which would account for, or explain, the changes in membrane thermal response, have been detected. An important point to emphasize is that the process of 'homeoviscous adaptation', which occurs in procaryotes and some poikilotherms during acclimation to low temperatures, is not a characteristic feature of most membranes of mammalian hibernators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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