Effects of hibernation on bone marrow transcriptome in thirteen-lined ground squirrels

Physiol Genomics. 2016 Jul 1;48(7):513-25. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00120.2015. Epub 2016 May 20.


Mammalian hibernators adapt to prolonged periods of immobility, hypometabolism, hypothermia, and oxidative stress, each capable of reducing bone marrow activity. In this study bone marrow transcriptomes were compared among thirteen-lined ground squirrels collected in July, winter torpor, and winter interbout arousal (IBA). The results were consistent with a suppression of acquired immune responses, and a shift to innate immune responses during hibernation through higher complement expression. Consistent with the increase in adipocytes found in bone marrow of hibernators, expression of genes associated with white adipose tissue are higher during hibernation. Genes that should strengthen the bone by increasing extracellular matrix were higher during hibernation, especially the collagen genes. Finally, expression of heat shock proteins were lower, and cold-response genes were higher, during hibernation. No differential expression of hematopoietic genes involved in erythrocyte or megakaryocyte production was observed. This global view of the changes in the bone marrow transcriptome over both short term (torpor vs. IBA) and long term (torpor vs. July) hypothermia can explain several observations made about circulating blood cells and the structure and strength of the bone during hibernation.

Keywords: adipose; erythrocyte; leukocyte; megakaryocyte; osteoblast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / genetics
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Arousal / genetics
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Hibernation / genetics*
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Megakaryocytes / metabolism
  • Sciuridae / metabolism
  • Sciuridae / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Torpor / genetics
  • Transcriptome / genetics*


  • Heat-Shock Proteins