Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Biology

Supervisor

James F. Staples

Abstract

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is the major thermogenic tissue in small eutherian mammals. In hibernators, seasonal modifications of BAT are well documented but little is known about its functional regulation during hibernation. BAT metabolism is activated by sympathetic stimulation, so I hypothesized that further regulation at the mitochondrial level, as seen in other hibernator tissues, would be of little advantage. Contrary to my predictions, respiration rates of BAT mitochondria isolated from torpid thirteen-lined ground squirrels were suppressed by up to 62% compared with rates from individuals that aroused to interbout euthermia (IBE), when measured at 37°C. At 10°C, however, these rates did not differ between torpor and IBE. Contrary to these results, activities of electron transport system enzymes and brown adipocyte respiration did not differ between torpor and IBE, regardless of assay temperature. The data suggest that BAT mitochondria become less temperature sensitive during torpor, allowing sustained function at low body temperatures.


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