• Metabolite influence on the hibernating Arctic ground squirrel

      Rice, Sarah A.; Drew, Kelly; Kuhn, Thomas; Coker, Robert; Ritter, Robert (2020-12)
      Hibernation is a state of extreme metabolic plasticity and fasting. How hibernators maintain nitrogen homeostasis and regulate amino acid metabolism and how those metabolites influence hibernation physiology remains unknown. We first utilized three approaches to understand nitrogen homeostasis and amino acid metabolism in hibernation: longitudinal metabolic profiling within individual animals over undisturbed torpor, in vivo amino acid isotope tracing in deep torpor, and ¹⁵N isotope tracing in vivo during arousal from hibernation in Arctic Ground Squirrels (AGS). We observed that in vivo whole body production (WBP) of metabolites in deep torpor are profoundly and selectively suppressed in deep torpor. Metabolic profiling over undisturbed torpor bouts shows amino acids with nitrogenous side chains accumulate over torpor while urea cycle intermediates remain unchanged. During arousal from hibernation, ¹⁵N isotope tracing demonstrates recycling of free nitrogen into non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids and the gamma-glutamyl system. We next utilized two approaches to understand potential metabolite influences on thermogenesis and behavior in hibernation: we infused ammonium acetate in deep torpor and fed diets high in omega 3 fatty acids and monitored body temperature and torpor bout length. We found high doses of a nitrogen donor, ammonium acetate, as well as diets high in omega 3 fatty acids both influence thermogenesis in hibernation. In conclusion, production of metabolites in deep torpor indicate highly regulated metabolism with accumulation of nitrogen carrying amino acids. We additionally show metabolites and nitrogen can exert thermogenic influence on hibernating AGS.