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Mol Cell Biochem. 2014 Aug;393(1-2):271-82. doi: 10.1007/s11010-014-2070-y. Epub 2014 Apr 29.

Characterization of adipocyte stress response pathways during hibernation in thirteen-lined ground squirrels.

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Institute of Biochemistry & Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6, Canada.


To avoid the harsh conditions of winter climates, hibernating mammals undergo a systematic depression of physiological function by reducing their metabolic rate. During this process, hibernators are exposed to significant stresses (e.g., low body temperature, ischemia-reperfusion) that must be dealt with appropriately to avoid irreversible tissue damage. Consequently, we investigated the contribution of stress-responsive antioxidant enzymes, heat shock proteins, signal transduction pathways (e.g., mitogen-activated protein kinases, MAPK), and transcription factors for their role in conferring tolerance to stress in the hibernating thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus). Using a combination of multiplex protein panels and traditional immunoblotting procedures, we have focused on these stress factors in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT) over cycles of torpor-arousal since they provide the means for heat production as a result of non-shivering thermogenesis and the mobilization of critical energy reserves, respectively. We show the differential and tissue-specific regulation of stress factors including a unified upregulation of the antioxidant enzyme Thioredoxin 1 in both tissues, an upregulation of superoxide dismutase (SOD1 and SOD2) in WAT, and an increase in heat shock proteins during the transitory periods of the torpor-arousal cycle (HSP90α in BAT and HSP60 in WAT). Additionally, an upregulation of the active form of ERK1/2 and p38 in BAT and select transcription factors (e.g., CREB-1 and ELK-1) in both tissues were identified. These data provide us with greater insight into the molecular mechanisms responsible for this animal's natural stress tolerance and outline molecular signatures which define stress resistance.

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