Variations in thermal physiology and energetics of the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri) in response to cold acclimation

J Comp Physiol B. 2012 Jan;182(1):167-76. doi: 10.1007/s00360-011-0606-y. Epub 2011 Aug 13.


Variations in environmental factors instigate significant changes in the physiology and behavior of animals, necessary for their survival. The present study investigated the hypothesis that ambient temperature is a cue capable of inducing changes in body mass, energy intake, and thermogenic capacity. Moreover, the current study determined the potential role of leptin in regulating adaptive thermogenesis in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri). The tree shrew was chosen as the experimental animal as they inhabit a wide area of Asia and must acclimatize to the cold. Animals were subjected to either 5° C over 28 days to simulate cold acclimation, or maintained under the original climate of room temperature. At 28 days cold-acclimatized shrews had increased body mass by 9.41 g compared to controls. The increase in body mass was found primarily to be due to growth of the digestive organs, combined with significantly increased food intake. Under cold acclimation, uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) expression in brown adipose tissue (BAT) was significantly elevated, while serum leptin concentration was significantly depressed below control levels. Serum leptin concentration was negatively correlated with body mass, energy intake, and thermogenic capacity during cold acclimation. In summary, these findings indicate that tree shrews adjust energy intake, thermogenic capacity, and body reserves in response to the cold, and further suggest that circulating leptin may act as a key signaling protein to regulate these adaptations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Cold Temperature
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*
  • Tupaia / physiology*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1


  • Ion Channels
  • Leptin
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Uncoupling Protein 1