Hormonal changes and energy substrate availability during the hibernation cycle of Syrian hamsters

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Animals have to adapt to seasonal variations in food resources and temperature. Hibernation is one of the most efficient means used by animals to cope with harsh winter conditions, wherein survival is achieved through a significant decrease in energy expenditure. The hibernation period is constituted by a succession of torpor bouts (hypometabolism and decrease in body temperature) and periodic arousals (eumetabolism and euthermia). Some species feed during these periodic arousals, and thus show different metabolic adaptations to fat-storing species that fast throughout the hibernation period. Our study aims to define these metabolic adaptations, including hormone (insulin, glucagon, leptin, adiponectin, GLP-1, GiP) and metabolite (glucose, free fatty acids, triglycerides, urea) profiles together with body composition adjustments. Syrian hamsters were exposed to varied photoperiod and temperature conditions mimicking different phases of the hibernation cycle: a long photoperiod at 20 °C (LP20 group), a short photoperiod at 20 °C (SP20 group), and a short photoperiod at 8 °C (SP8). SP8 animals were sampled either at the beginning of a torpor bout (Torpor group) or at the beginning of a periodic arousal (Arousal group). We show that fat store mobilization in hamsters during torpor bouts is associated with decreased circulating levels of glucagon, insulin, leptin, and an increase in adiponectin. Refeeding during periodic arousals results in a decreased free fatty acid plasma concentration and an increase in glycemia and plasma incretin concentrations. Reduced incretin and increased adiponectin levels are therefore in accordance with the changes in nutrient availability and feeding behavior observed during the hibernation cycle of Syrian hamsters.

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