Mammalian hibernation is characterized by profound reductions in metabolism, oxygen consumption and heart rate. As a result, the animal enters a state of suspended animation where core body temperatures can plummet as low as -2.9 degrees C. Not only can hibernating mammals survive these physiological extremes, but they also return to a normothermic state of activity without reperfusion injury or other ill effects. This review examines recent findings on the genes, proteins and small molecules that control the induction and maintenance of hibernation in mammals. The molecular events involved with remodeling metabolism, inducing hypothermia and maintaining organ function are discussed and considered with respect to analogous processes in non-hibernating mammals such as mice and humans. The advent of sequenced genomes from three distantly related hibernators, a bat, hedgehog and ground squirrel, provides additional opportunities for molecular biologists to explore the mechanistic aspects of this biological adaptation in greater detail.
(c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.