Mammalian hibernators undergo profound behavioral, physiological, and biochemical changes in order to cope with hypothermia, ischemia-reperfusion, and finite fuel reserves over days or weeks of continuous torpor. Against a backdrop of global reductions in energy-expensive processes such as transcription and translation, a subset of genes/proteins are strategically upregulated in order to meet challenges associated with hibernation. Consequently, hibernation involves substantial transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms and provides a phenomenon with which to understand how a set of common genes/proteins can be differentially regulated in order to enhance stress tolerance beyond that which is possible for nonhibernators. The present review focuses on the involvement of messenger RNA (mRNA) interacting factors that play a role in the regulation of gene/protein expression programs that define the hibernating phenotype. These include proteins involved in mRNA processing (i.e., capping, splicing, and polyadenylation) and the possible role of alternative splicing as a means of enhancing protein diversity. Since the total pool of mRNA remains constant throughout torpor, mechanisms which enhance mRNA stability are discussed in the context of RNA binding proteins and mRNA decay pathways. Furthermore, mechanisms which control the global reduction of cap-dependent translation and the involvement of internal ribosome entry sites in mRNAs encoding stress response proteins are also discussed. Finally, the concept of regulating each of these factors in discrete subcellular compartments for enhanced efficiency is addressed. The analysis draws on recent research from several well-studied mammalian hibernators including ground squirrels, bats, and bears.

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Keywords Mammalian hibernation, RNA interacting factors, Stress tolerance, Transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation, Translation
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Journal Cell Stress and Chaperones
Tessier, S.N. (Shannon N.), & Storey, K. (2014). To be or not to be: The regulation of mRNA fate as a survival strategy during mammalian hibernation. Cell Stress and Chaperones (Vol. 19). doi:10.1007/s12192-014-0512-9