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Physiol Genomics. 2016 Jun;48(6):388-96. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00005.2016. Epub 2016 Apr 15.

Analysis of microRNA expression during the torpor-arousal cycle of a mammalian hibernator, the 13-lined ground squirrel.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Institute of Biochemistry and Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Hibernation is a highly regulated stress response that is utilized by some mammals to survive harsh winter conditions and involves a complex metabolic reprogramming at the cellular level to maintain tissue protections at low temperature. In this study, we profiled the expression of 117 conserved microRNAs in the heart, muscle, and liver of the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) across four stages of the torpor-arousal cycle (euthermia, early torpor, late torpor, and interbout arousal) by real-time PCR. We found significant differential regulation of numerous microRNAs that were both tissue specific and torpor stage specific. Among the most significant regulated microRNAs was miR-208b, a positive regulator of muscle development that was found to be upregulated by fivefold in the heart during late torpor (13-fold during arousal), while decreased by 3.7-fold in the skeletal muscle, implicating a potential regulatory role in the development of cardiac hypertrophy and skeletal muscle atrophy in the ground squirrels during torpor. In addition, the insulin resistance marker miR-181a was upregulated by 5.7-fold in the liver during early torpor, which supports previous suggestions of hyperinsulinemia in hibernators during the early stages of the hibernation cycle. Although microRNA expression profiles were largely unique between the three tissues, GO annotation analysis revealed that the putative targets of upregulated microRNAs tend to enrich toward suppression of progrowth-related processes in all three tissues. These findings implicate microRNAs in the regulation of both tissue-specific processes and general suppression of cell growth during hibernation.


cryobiology; hibernation; metabolic depression; noncoding RNAs; stress resistance

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