Mitochondrial metabolism in hibernation and daily torpor: a review

J Comp Physiol B. 2008 Sep;178(7):811-27. doi: 10.1007/s00360-008-0282-8. Epub 2008 Jun 13.


Hibernation and daily torpor involve substantial decreases in body temperature and metabolic rate, allowing birds and mammals to cope with cold environments and/or limited food. Regulated suppression of mitochondrial metabolism probably contributes to energy savings: state 3 (phosphorylating) respiration is lower in liver mitochondria isolated from mammals in hibernation or daily torpor compared to normothermic controls, although data on state 4 (non-phosphorylating) respiration are equivocal. However, no suppression is seen in skeletal muscle, and there is little reliable data from other tissues. In both daily torpor and hibernation, liver state 3 substrate oxidation is suppressed, especially upstream of electron transport chain complex IV. In hibernation respiratory suppression is reversed quickly in arousal even when body temperature is very low, implying acute regulatory mechanisms, such as oxaloacetate inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase. Respiratory suppression depends on in vitro assay temperature (no suppression is evident below approximately 30 degrees C) and (at least in hibernation) dietary polyunsaturated fats, suggesting effects on inner mitochondrial membrane phospholipids. Proton leakiness of the inner mitochondrial membrane does not change in hibernation, but this also depends on dietary polyunsaturates. In contrast proton leak increases in daily torpor, perhaps limiting reactive oxygen species production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Hibernation / physiology*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / physiology
  • Respiration