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Amygdalar glutamatergic neuronal systems play a key role on the hibernating state of hamsters

Raffaella Alò, Ennio Avolio, Antonio Carelli, Rosa Maria Facciolo and Marcello Canonaco*

Author affiliations

Comparative Neuroanatomy Laboratory of Ecology Department, University of Calabria, Ponte Pietro Bucci, 87030 Arcavacata di Rende, Cosenza, Italy

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-10

Published: 20 January 2011



Excitatory transmitting mechanisms are proving to play a critical role on neuronal homeostasis conditions of facultative hibernators such as the Syrian golden hamster. Indeed works have shown that the glutamatergic system of the main olfactory brain station (amygdala) is capable of controlling thermoregulatory responses, which are considered vital for the different hibernating states. In the present study the role of amygdalar glutamatergic circuits on non-hibernating (NHIB) and hibernating (HIB) hamsters were assessed on drinking stimuli and subsequently compared to expression variations of some glutamatergic subtype mRNA levels in limbic areas. For this study the two major glutamatergic antagonists and namely that of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), 3-(+)-2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl-propyl-1-phosphonate (CPP) plus that of the acid α-amine-3-hydroxy-5-metil-4-isoxazol-propionic receptor (AMPAR) site, cyano-7-nitro-quinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) were infused into the basolateral amygdala nucleus. Attempts were made to establish the type of effects evoked by amygdalar glutamatergic cross-talking processes during drinking stimuli, a response that may corroborate their major role at least during some stages of this physiological activity in hibernators.


From the behavioral results it appears that the two glutamatergic compounds exerted distinct effects. In the first case local infusion of basolateral complexes (BLA) with NMDAR antagonist caused very great (p < 0.001) drinking rhythms while moderately increased feeding (p < 0.05) responses during arousal with respect to moderately increased drinking levels in euthermics. Conversely, treatment with CNQX did not modify drinking rhythms and so animals spent more time executing exploratory behaviors. These same antagonists accounted for altered glutamatergic transcription activities as displayed by greatly reduced GluR1, NR1 and GluR2 levels in hippocampus, ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMN) and amygdala, respectively, plus a great (p < 0.01) up-regulation of GluR2 in VMN of hibernators.


We conclude that predominant drinking events evoked by glutamatergic mechanisms, in the presence of prevalently down regulated levels of NR1/2A of some telencephalic and hypothalamic areas appear to constitute an important neuronal switch at least during arousal stage of hibernation. The establishment of the type of glutamatergic subtypes that are linked to successful hibernating states, via drinking stimuli, may have useful bearings toward sleeping disorders.