Biology Publications


Selective mobilization of saturated fatty acids in isolated adipocytes of hibernating 13-lined ground squirrels Ictidomys tridecemlineatus.

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Physiological and biochemical zoology : PBZ





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Fatty acids are not mobilized from adipocyte triacylglycerols uniformly but rather some are preferentially mobilized while others are preferentially retained. In many vertebrate species, the pattern of differential mobilization is determined by the physical and chemical properties of each fatty acid. Fatty acids with shorter chains and more double bonds tend to be more readily mobilized than others, a pattern observed both in whole-animal studies and in isolated adipocytes. Several hibernating species seem to break this pattern, however, and retain 18:2ω6 (linoleic acid) while mobilizing saturated fatty acids such as 18:0. We sought to confirm this pattern in adipocytes of a hibernator, the 13-lined ground squirrel Ictidomys tridecemlineatus, and to investigate mobilization patterns for the first time at hibernation temperature. We isolated adipocytes from summer active and winter torpid squirrels and incubated them with 1 μM norepinephrine at 4°C (7 h) and 37°C (90 min). We measured the proportion of each fatty acid in the adipose tissue and in the buffer at the end of incubation. Patterns of mobilization were similar in both seasons and incubation temperatures. Saturated fatty acids (18:0 and 16:0) were highly mobilized relative to the average, while some unsaturated fatty acids (notably, 18:1ω9 and 18:2ω6) were retained. We conclude that hibernators have unique mechanisms at the level of adipose tissue that preferentially mobilize saturated fatty acids. Additionally, we found that adipocytes from hibernating squirrels produced more glycerol than those from summer squirrels (regardless of temperature), indicating a higher lipolytic capacity in hibernating squirrels.