Subcellular distribution of key enzymes of lipid metabolism during the euthermia-hibernation-arousal cycle

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Abstract

Mammalian hibernation is a natural, fully reversible hypometabolic state characterized by a drastic reduction of body temperature and metabolic activity, which ensures survival to many species under adverse environmental conditions. During hibernation, many hibernators rely for energy supply almost exclusively on lipid reserves; the shift from carbohydrate to lipid metabolism implies profound rearrangement of the anabolic and catabolic pathways of energetic substrates. However, the structural counterpart of such adaptation is not known. In this study we investigated, by using immunoelectron microscopy, the fine intracellular distribution of two key enzymes involved in lipid metabolism, namely, the fatty acid synthase (FAS) and the long-chain fatty acyl-CoA synthetase (ACSL), in hepatocytes of euthermic, hibernating and arousing hazel dormice. Our results show that the two enzymes are differentially distributed in cellular compartments (cytoplasm, mitochondria and cell nuclei) of hepatocytes during euthermia. Quantitative redistribution of both enzymes among cellular compartments takes place during hibernation and arousal, in accordance with the physiological changes. Interestingly, this redistribution follows different seasonal patterns in cytoplasm, mitochondria and nuclei. In conclusion, our data represent the first quantitative morphological evidence of lipid enzyme distribution in a true hibernator throughout the year cycle, thus providing a structural framework to biochemical changes associated with the hypometabolism of hibernation.

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