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Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 19;6:24627. doi: 10.1038/srep24627.

The hibernating South American marsupial, Dromiciops gliroides, displays torpor-sensitive microRNA expression patterns.

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Department of Biology and Institute of Biochemistry, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada.
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Campus Isla Teja, Valdivia, Chile.
CSIRO Oceans &Atmosphere, GPO Box 1538, Hobart 7001, TAS, Australia.


When faced with adverse environmental conditions, the marsupial Dromiciops gliroides uses either daily or seasonal torpor to support survival and is the only known hibernating mammal in South America. As the sole living representative of the ancient Order Microbiotheria, this species can provide crucial information about the evolutionary origins and biochemical mechanisms of hibernation. Hibernation is a complex energy-saving strategy that involves changes in gene expression that are elicited in part by microRNAs. To better elucidate the role of microRNAs in orchestrating hypometabolism, a modified stem-loop technique and quantitative PCR were used to characterize the relative expression levels of 85 microRNAs in liver and skeletal muscle of control and torpid D. gliroides. Thirty-nine microRNAs were differentially regulated during torpor; of these, 35 were downregulated in liver and 11 were differentially expressed in skeletal muscle. Bioinformatic analysis predicted that the downregulated liver microRNAs were associated with activation of MAPK, PI3K-Akt and mTOR pathways, suggesting their importance in facilitating marsupial torpor. In skeletal muscle, hibernation-responsive microRNAs were predicted to regulate focal adhesion, ErbB, and mTOR pathways, indicating a promotion of muscle maintenance mechanisms. These tissue-specific responses suggest that microRNAs regulate key molecular pathways that facilitate hibernation, thermoregulation, and prevention of muscle disuse atrophy.

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