Digital transcriptome analysis indicates adaptive mechanisms in the heart of a hibernating mammal

Katharine M. Brauch, Nirish D. Dhruv, Eric A. Hanse, Matthew T. Andrews

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73 Scopus citations


Survival of near-freezing body temperatures and reduced blood flow during hibernation is likely the result of changes in the expression of specific genes. In this study, we described a comprehensive survey of mRNAs in the heart of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) before and during hibernation. The heart was chosen for this study because it is a contractile organ that must continue to work despite body temperatures of 5°C and the lack of food for periods of 5-6 mo. We used a digital gene expression assay involving high-throughput sequencing of directional cDNA libraries from hearts of active and hibernating ground squirrels to determine the identity and frequency of 3,532 expressed sequence tags (ESTs). Statistical analysis of the active and hibernating heart expression profile indicated the differential regulation of 48 genes based on a P ≤ 0.03 threshold. Several of the differentially expressed genes identified in this screen encode proteins that likely account for uninterrupted cardiac function during hibernation, including those involved in metabolism, contractility, Ca2+ handling, and low-temperature catalysis. A sampling of genes showing higher expression during hibernation includes phosphofructokinase, pancreatic triacylglycerol lipase, pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4), aldolase A, sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase 2a (SERCA2a), titin, and four-and-a-half LIM domains protein 2 (FHL2). Genes showing reduced levels of expression during hibernation include cyclin-dependent kinase 2-associated protein 1 (CDK2AP1), troponin C, phospholamban, Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), calmodulin, and four subunits of cytochrome c oxidase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological Genomics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 17 2005


  • Cardiac genes
  • Expression profiling
  • Hibernation


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