Hibernation: the immune system at rest?

J Leukoc Biol. 2010 Oct;88(4):619-24. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0310174. Epub 2010 Jun 2.


Mammalian hibernation consists of torpor phases when metabolism is severely depressed, and T(b) can reach as low as approximately -2°C, interrupted by euthermic arousal phases. Hibernation affects the function of the innate and the adaptive immune systems. Torpor drastically reduces numbers of all types of circulating leukocytes. In addition, other changes have been noted, such as lower complement levels, diminished response to LPS, phagocytotic capacity, cytokine production, lymphocyte proliferation, and antibody production. Hibernation may therefore increase infection risk, as illustrated by the currently emerging WNS in hibernating bats. Unraveling the pathways that result in reduced immune function during hibernation will enhance our understanding of immunologic responses during extreme physiological changes in mammals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fasting
  • Hibernation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / immunology