High rates of non-shivering thermogenesis by brown adipose tissue accompanied by additional shivering thermogenesis in skeletal muscle provide the powerful reheating of body organs that allows hibernating mammals to return from their state of cold torpor back to euthermic function. Previous studies have suggested that changes to brown adipose mitochondria occur during hibernation and are partially responsible for its capacity for non-shivering thermogenesis. The current study shows that selected mitochondrial enzyme activities are elevated and selected genes and proteins are induced during torpor in brown adipose tissue of the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus. Cytochrome oxidase activity in brown adipose tissue was more than 3-fold higher during torpor than in euthermic animals. Transcript levels of mitochondria-encoded genes, coxII and nad4, were also 3-4-fold higher during torpor, as evidenced by northern blotting. By contrast, transcripts of these genes were unchanged in skeletal muscle during torpor. Protein levels of carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1β, an enzyme embedded in the outer membrane of the mitochondria that is the rate-limiting step enzyme in β-oxidation, were also elevated by 2-fold during torpor in brown adipose but were unchanged in skeletal muscle. Cloning and sequencing of a 624 bp segment of cpt-1β revealed a number of amino acid substitutions in the bat protein as compared to CPT-1β from other mammals; these may be beneficial for enzyme function at low body temperatures during torpor. This study provides further evidence for a key role of mitochondria in hibernation.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/jez.a.294
Journal Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology
Eddy, S.F. (Sean F.), Morin Jr., P. (Pier), & Storey, K. (2006). Differential expression of selected mitochondrial genes in hibernating little brown bats, Myotis lucifugus. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology, 305(8), 620–630. doi:10.1002/jez.a.294