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Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2018 May;219-220:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpb.2018.02.004. Epub 2018 Mar 5.

A lesson from the oxidative metabolism of hibernator heart: Possible strategy for cardioprotection.

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University of Belgrade, Institute for Biological Research "Sinisa Stankovic", Belgrade, Serbia.
University of Belgrade, Faculty of Biology, Centre for Electron Microscopy, Belgrade, Serbia.
University of Belgrade, Faculty of Biology, Belgrade, Serbia.
Carleton University, Department of Biology, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
University of Belgrade, Institute for Biological Research "Sinisa Stankovic", Belgrade, Serbia. Electronic address:


In the present study we hypothesized that myocardial adaptive phenotype in mammalian hibernation involves rearrangement of mitochondria bioenergetic pathways providing protective pattern in states of reduced metabolism and low temperature. European ground squirrels (Spermophilus citellus) were exposed to low temperature (4 ± 1 °C) and then divided into two groups: (1) animals that fell into torpor (hibernating group) and (2) animals that stayed active and euthermic for 1, 3, 7, 12, or 21 days (cold-exposed group). Protein levels of selected components of the electron transport chain and ATP synthase in the heart increased after prolonged cold acclimation (mainly from day 7-21 of cold exposure) and during hibernation. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) was also upregulated under both cold exposure and hibernating conditions. The phosphorylation state (Thr172) of 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase α increased early in cold exposure (at day 1 and 3) along with increased protein levels of phosphofructokinase and pyruvate dehydrogenase, whereas hypoxia inducible factor 1α protein levels showed no changes in response to cold exposure or hibernation. Hibernation also resulted in protein upregulation of three antioxidant defense enzymes (manganese and copper/zinc superoxide dismutases and glutathione peroxidase) and thioredoxin in the heart. Cold-exposed and hibernation-related phenotypes of the heart are characterized by improved molecular basis for mitochondrial energy-producing and antioxidant capacities that are achieved in a controlled manner. The recapitulation of such adaptive mechanisms found in hibernators could have broad application for myocardial protection from ishemia/reperfusion to improve hypothermic survival and cold preservation of hearts from non-hibernating species, including humans.


Cardioprotection; Heart; Hibernators; Mitochondria

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