Gene Expression Profiling in the Hibernating Primate, Cheirogaleus Medius.
Hibernation is a complex physiological response that some mammalian species employ to evade energetic demands. Previous work in mammalian hibernators suggests that hibernation is activated not by a set of genes unique to hibernators, but by differential expression of genes that are present in all mammals. This question of universal genetic mechanisms requires further investigation and can only be tested through additional investigations of phylogenetically dispersed species. To explore this question, we use RNA-Seq to investigate gene expression dynamics as they relate to the varying physiological states experienced throughout the year in a group of primate hibernators-Madagascar's dwarf lemurs (genus Cheirogaleus). In a novel experimental approach, we use longitudinal sampling of biological tissues as a method for capturing gene expression profiles from the same individuals throughout their annual hibernation cycle. We identify 90 candidate genes that have variable expression patterns when comparing two active states (Active 1 and Active 2) with a torpor state. These include genes that are involved in metabolic pathways, feeding behavior, and circadian rhythms, as might be expected to correlate with seasonal physiological state changes. The identified genes appear to be critical for maintaining the health of an animal that undergoes prolonged periods of metabolic depression concurrent with the hibernation phenotype. By focusing on these differentially expressed genes in dwarf lemurs, we compare gene expression patterns in previously studied mammalian hibernators. Additionally, by employing evolutionary rate analysis, we find that hibernation-related genes do not evolve under positive selection in hibernating species relative to nonhibernators.
Faherty, SL; Villanueva-Cañas, JL; Klopfer, PH; Albà, MM; Yoder, AD
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