Reversible depression of oxygen consumption in isolated liver mitochondria during hibernation

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The biochemical mechanisms by which hibernators cool as they enter torpor are not fully understood. In order to examine whether rates of substrate oxidation vary as a function of hibernation, liver mitochondria were isolated from telemetered ground squirrels (Spermophilus lateralis) in five phases of their annual hibernation cycle: summer active, and torpid, interbout aroused, entrance, and arousing hibernators. Rates of state 3 and state 4 respiration were measured in vitro at 25 °C. Relative to mitochondria from summer-active animals, rates of state 3 respiration were significantly depressed in mitochondria from torpid animals yet fully restored during interbout arousals. These findings indicate that a depression of ADP-dependent respiration in liver mitochondria occurs during torpor and is reversed during the interbout arousals to euthermia. Because this inhibition was determined to be temporally independent of entrance and arousal, it is unlikely that active suppression of state 3 respiration causes entrance into torpor by facilitating metabolic depression. In contrast to the observed depression of state 3 respiration in torpid animals, state 4 respiration did not differ significantly among any of the five groups, suggesting that alterations in proton leak are not contributing appreciably to downregulation of respiration in hibernation.

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Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

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