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Biochemistry. 1988 Jun 28;27(13):4632-8.

Calorimetric and spectroscopic studies of lipid thermotropic phase behavior in liver inner mitochondrial membranes from a mammalian hibernator.

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Department of Zoology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


Arrhenius plots of various enzyme and transport systems associated with the liver mitochondrial inner membranes of ground squirrels exhibit changes in slope at temperatures of 20-25 degrees C in nonhibernating but not in hibernating animals. It has been proposed that the Arrhenius breaks observed in nonhibernating animals are the result of a gel to liquid-crystalline phase transition of the mitochondrial membrane lipids, which also occurs at 20-25 degrees C, and that the absence of such breaks in hibernating animals is due to a major depression of this lipid phase transition to temperatures below 4 degrees C. In order to test this hypothesis, we have examined the thermotropic phase behavior of liver inner mitochondrial membranes from hibernating and nonhibernating Richardson's ground squirrels, Spermophilus richardsonii, by differential scanning calorimetry and by 19F nuclear magnetic resonance and fluorescence polarization spectroscopy. Each of these techniques indicates that no lipid phase transition occurs in the membranes of either hibernating or nonhibernating ground squirrels within the physiological temperature range of this animal (4-37 degrees C). Moreover, differential scanning calorimetric measurements indicate that only a small depression of the lipid gel to liquid-crystalline phase transition, which is centered at about -5 degrees C in nonhibernating animals and at about -9 degrees C in hibernators, occurs. We thus conclude that the Arrhenius plot breaks observed in some membrane-associated enzymatic and transport activities of nonhibernating animals are not the result of a lipid phase transition and that a major shift in the gel to liquid-crystalline lipid phase transition temperature is not responsible for seasonal changes in the thermal behavior of these inner mitochondrial membrane proteins.

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