Muscle wasting is common in mammals during extended periods of immobility. However, many small hibernating mammals manage to avoid muscle atrophy despite remaining stationary for long periods during hibernation. Recent research has highlighted roles for short non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) in the regulation of stress tolerance. We proposed that they could also play an important role in muscle maintenance during hibernation. To explore this possibility, a group of 10 miRNAs known to be normally expressed in skeletal muscle of non-hibernating mammals were analyzed by RT-PCR in hibernating little brown bats, Myotis lucifugus. We then compared the expression of these miRNAs in euthermic control bats and bats in torpor. Our results showed that compared to euthermic controls, significant, albeit modest (1.2-1.6 fold), increases in transcript expression were observed for eight mature miRNAs, including miR-1a-1, miR-29b, miR-181b, miR-15a, miR-20a, miR-206 and miR-128-1, in the pectoral muscle of torpid bats. Conversely, expression of miR-21 decreased by 80% during torpor, while expression of miR-107 remained unaffected. Interestingly, these miRNAs have been either validated or predicted to affect multiple muscle-specific factors, including myostatin, FoxO3a, HDAC4 and SMAD7, and are likely involved in the preservation of pectoral muscle mass and functionality during bat hibernation.

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Keywords Atrophy, Dicer, Hibernation, Metabolic rate depression, MicroRNA, Myostatin
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Journal Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics
Kornfeld, S.F. (Samantha F.), Biggar, K.K, & Storey, K. (2012). Differential Expression of Mature MicroRNAs Involved in Muscle Maintenance of Hibernating Little Brown Bats, Myotis lucifugus: A Model of Muscle Atrophy Resistance. Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics, 10(5), 295–301. doi:10.1016/j.gpb.2012.09.001