Open Access Research article

Molecular signatures of mammalian hibernation: comparisons with alternative phenotypes

Yichi Xu1, Chunxuan Shao1, Vadim B Fedorov2, Anna V Goropashnaya2, Brian M Barnes2 and Jun Yan1*

Author Affiliations

1 CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 320 Yue Yang Road, Shanghai 200031, China

2 Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:567  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-567

Published: 20 August 2013



Mammalian hibernators display phenotypes similar to physiological responses to calorie restriction and fasting, sleep, cold exposure, and ischemia-reperfusion in non-hibernating species. Whether biochemical changes evident during hibernation have parallels in non-hibernating systems on molecular and genetic levels is unclear.


We identified the molecular signatures of torpor and arousal episodes during hibernation using a custom-designed microarray for the Arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii) and compared them with molecular signatures of selected mouse phenotypes. Our results indicate that differential gene expression related to metabolism during hibernation is associated with that during calorie restriction and that the nuclear receptor protein PPARĪ± is potentially crucial for metabolic remodeling in torpor. Sleep-wake cycle-related and temperature response genes follow the same expression changes as during the torpor-arousal cycle. Increased fatty acid metabolism occurs during hibernation but not during ischemia-reperfusion injury in mice and, thus, might contribute to protection against ischemia-reperfusion during hibernation.


In this study, we systematically compared hibernation with alternative phenotypes to reveal novel mechanisms that might be used therapeutically in human pathological conditions.

Hibernation; Microarray; Molecular signatures; Liver; Urocitellus parryii