Utility of the burmese Python as a model for studying plasticity of extreme physiological systems

J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 2022 Nov 1. doi: 10.1007/s10974-022-09632-2. Online ahead of print.


Non-traditional animal models present an opportunity to discover novel biology that has evolved to allow such animals to survive in extreme environments. One striking example is the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), which exhibits extreme physiological adaptation in various metabolic organs after consuming a large meal following long periods of fasting. The response to such a large meal in pythons involves a dramatic surge in metabolic rate, lipid overload in plasma, and massive but reversible organ growth through the course of digestion. Multiple studies have reported the physiological responses in post-prandial pythons, while the specific molecular control of these processes is less well-studied. Investigating the mechanisms that coordinate organ growth and adaptive responses offers the opportunity to gain novel insight that may be able to treat various pathologies in humans. Here, we summarize past research on the post-prandial physiological changes in the Burmese python with a focus on the gastrointestinal tract, heart, and liver. Specifically, we address our recent molecular discoveries in the post-prandial python liver which demonstrate transient adaptations that may reveal new therapeutic targets. Lastly, we explore new biology of the aquaporin 7 gene that is potently upregulated in mammalian cardiac myocytes by circulating factors in post-prandial python plasma.

Keywords: Extreme biology; Metabolism; Molecular signaling; Post-prandial adaption; Tissue growth.

Publication types

  • Review