Proteomics approaches shed new light on hibernation physiology

J Comp Physiol B. 2015 Aug;185(6):607-27. doi: 10.1007/s00360-015-0905-9. Epub 2015 May 15.


The broad phylogenetic distribution and rapid phenotypic transitions of mammalian hibernators imply that hibernation is accomplished by differential expression of common genes. Traditional candidate gene approaches have thus far explained little of the molecular mechanisms underlying hibernation, likely due to (1) incomplete and imprecise sampling of a complex phenotype, and (2) the forming of hypotheses about which genes might be important based on studies of model organisms incapable of such dynamic physiology. Unbiased screening approaches, such as proteomics, offer an alternative means to discover the cellular underpinnings that permit successful hibernation and may reveal previously overlooked, important pathways. Here, we review the findings that have emerged from proteomics studies of hibernation. One striking feature is the stability of the proteome, especially across the extreme physiological shifts of torpor-arousal cycles during hibernation. This has led to subsequent investigations of the role of post-translational protein modifications in altering protein activity without energetically wasteful removal and rebuilding of protein pools. Another unexpected finding is the paucity of universal proteomic adjustments across organ systems in response to the extreme metabolic fluctuations despite the universality of their physiological challenges; rather each organ appears to respond in a unique, tissue-specific manner. Additional research is needed to extend and synthesize these results before it will be possible to address the whole body physiology of hibernation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Heart / physiology
  • Hibernation / genetics
  • Hibernation / physiology*
  • Liver / physiology
  • Mammals / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Organ Specificity
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Seasons
  • Thermogenesis