Deep sequencing the transcriptome reveals seasonal adaptive mechanisms in a hibernating mammal

Marshall E Hampton, Richard G Melvin, Anne H. Kendall, Brian R. Kirkpatrick, Nichole Peterson, Matthew T. Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Mammalian hibernation is a complex phenotype involving metabolic rate reduction, bradycardia, profound hypothermia, and a reliance on stored fat that allows the animal to survive for months without food in a state of suspended animation. To determine the genes responsible for this phenotype in the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) we used the Roche 454 platform to sequence mRNA isolated at six points throughout the year from three key tissues: heart, skeletal muscle, and white adipose tissue (WAT). Deep sequencing generated approximately 3.7 million cDNA reads from 18 samples (6 time points ×3 tissues) with a mean read length of 335 bases. Of these, 3,125,337 reads were assembled into 140,703 contigs. Approximately 90% of all sequences were matched to proteins in the human UniProt database. The total number of distinct human proteins matched by ground squirrel transcripts was 13,637 for heart, 12,496 for skeletal muscle, and 14,351 for WAT. Extensive mitochondrial RNA sequences enabled a novel approach of using the transcriptome to construct the complete mitochondrial genome for I. tridecemlineatus. Seasonal and activity-specific changes in mRNA levels that met our stringent false discovery rate cutoff (1.0×10 -11) were used to identify patterns of gene expression involving various aspects of the hibernation phenotype. Among these patterns are differentially expressed genes encoding heart proteins AT1A1, NAC1 and RYR2 controlling ion transport required for contraction and relaxation at low body temperatures. Abundant RNAs in skeletal muscle coding ubiquitin pathway proteins ASB2, UBC and DDB1 peak in October, suggesting an increase in muscle proteolysis. Finally, genes in WAT that encode proteins involved in lipogenesis (ACOD, FABP4) are highly expressed in August, but gradually decline in expression during the seasonal transition to lipolysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27021
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Deep sequencing the transcriptome reveals seasonal adaptive mechanisms in a hibernating mammal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this