Torpor induction in mammals: recent discoveries fueling new ideas

Richard G Melvin, Matthew T. Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


When faced with a harsh climate or inadequate food, some mammals enter a state of suspended animation known as torpor. A major goal of torpor research is to determine mechanisms that integrate environmental cues, gene expression and metabolism to produce periods of torpor lasting from hours to weeks. Recent discoveries spanning the Metazoa suggest that sirtuins, the mammalian circadian clock, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) and lipids are involved in torpor induction. For example, sirtuins link cellular energy status to the mammalian circadian clock, oxidative stress and metabolic fuel selection. In this review, we discuss how these recent discoveries form a new hypothesis linking changes in the physical environment with changes in the expression of genes that regulate torpor induction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-498
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
During the writing of this review, the authors were supported by NIH grants 5K 12 GM07 4628 (RGM) and by R15 HL08110 (MTA). We thank Steven A. Kliewer, Bethany T. Nelson, Sarah J. Timm, George Trachte and the University of Minnesota IRACDA postdoctoral fellows for comments and discussion of the draft manuscript. Carrie Bethel and James Petite helped us create the figures.


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