Prior to hibernation, 13-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) enter a hypophagic period where food consumption drops by an average of 55% in 3 weeks. This occurs naturally, while the ground squirrels are in constant environmental conditions and have free access to food. Importantly, this transition occurs before exposure to hibernation conditions (5°C and constant darkness), so the ground squirrels are still maintaining a moderate level of activity. In this study, we used the Illumina HiSeq 2000 system to sequence the hypothalamic transcriptomes of ground squirrels before and after the autumn feeding transition to examine the genes underlying this extreme change in feeding behavior. The hypothalamus was chosen because it is known to play a role in the control and regulation of food intake and satiety. Overall, our analysis identified 143 genes that are significantly differentially expressed between the two groups. Specifically, we found five genes associated with feeding behavior and obesity (VGF, TRH, LEPR, ADIPOR2, IRS2) that are all upregulated during the hypophagic period, after the feeding transition has occurred. We also found that serum leptin significantly increases in the hypophagic group. Several of the genes associated with the natural autumnal feeding decline in 13-lined ground squirrels show parallels to signaling pathways known to be disrupted in human metabolic diseases, like obesity and diabetes. In addition, many other genes were identified that could be important for the control of food consumption in other animals, including humans. A rapid and extreme feeding transition in pre-hibernation ground squirrels described by hypothalamic gene expression.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society.
- Food intake
- Illumina HiSeq
- Seasonal behavior