To conserve energy in times of limited resource availability, particularly during cold winters, hibernators suppress even the most basic of physiologic processes. Breathing rates decrease from 40 breaths/minute to less than 1 breath/min as they decrease body temperature from 37oC to ambient. Nevertheless, after months of hibernation, these incredible mammals emerge from torpor unscathed. This study was conducted to better understand the protective and possibly anti-inflammatory adaptations that hibernator lungs may use to prevent damage associated with entering and emerging from natural torpor. We postulated that the differential protein expression of soluble protein receptors (decoy receptors that sequester soluble ligands to inhibit signal transduction) would help identify inhibited inflammatory signaling pathways in metabolically suppressed lungs. Instead, the only two soluble receptors that responded to torpor were sVEGFR1 and sVEGFR2, two receptors whose full-length forms are bound by VEGF-A to regulate endothelial cell function and angiogenesis. Decreased sVEGFR1/2 correlated with increased total VEGFR2 protein levels. Maintained or increased levels of key ã-secretase subunits suggested that decreased sVEGFR1/2 protein levels were not due to decreased levels of intramembrane cleavage complex subunits. VEGF-A protein levels did not change, suggesting that hibernators may regulate VEGFR1/2 signaling at thes level of the receptor instead of increasing relative ligand abundance. A panel of angiogenic factors used to identify biomarkers of angiogenesis showed a decrease in FGF-1 and an increase in BMP-9. Torpid lungs may use VEGF and BMP-9 signaling to balance angiogenesis and vascular stability, possibly through the activation of SMAD signaling for adaptive tissue remodeling.

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Department of Biology

Logan, S.M. (Samantha M.), & Storey, K. (2019). Angiogenic signaling in the lungs of a metabolically suppressed hibernating mammal (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus). PeerJ, 2019(11). doi:10.7717/peerj.8116