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Suppression of mitochondrial respiration by hydrogen sulfide in hibernating 13-lined ground squirrels

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  • Birgitte S. Jensen
  • Sibile Pardue, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
  • ,
  • Brynne Duffy, University of Western Ontario
  • ,
  • Christopher G. Kevil, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
  • ,
  • James F. Staples, University of Western Ontario
  • ,
  • Angela Fago

Hibernating mammals may suppress their basal metabolic rate during torpor by up to 95% to reduce energy expenditure during winter, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Here we show that hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a ubiquitous signaling molecule, is a powerful inhibitor of respiration of liver mitochondria isolated from torpid 13-lined ground squirrels, but has a weak effect on mitochondria isolated during summer and hibernation arousals, where metabolic rate is normal. Consistent with these in vitro effects, we find strong seasonal variations of in vivo levels of H2S in plasma and increases of H2S levels in the liver of squirrels during torpor compared to levels during arousal and summer. The in vivo changes of liver H2S levels correspond with low activity of the mitochondrial H2S oxidizing enzyme sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase (SQR) during torpor. Taken together, these results suggest that during torpor, H2S accumulates in the liver due to a low SQR activity and contributes to inhibition of mitochondrial respiration, while during arousals and summer these effects are reversed, H2S is degraded by active SQR and mitochondrial respiration rates increase. This study provides novel insights into mechanisms underlying mammalian hibernation, pointing to SQR as a key enzyme involved in the control of mitochondrial function.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Pages (from-to)181-186
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

    Research areas

  • H2S, Hypometabolism, Ictidomys tridecemlineatus, sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase, Torpor, METABOLIC SUPPRESSION, NITRIC-OXIDE, THIOSULFATE, INHIBITION, OXIDATION, CYANIDE, TORPOR, BLOOD, CELLS, LIVER

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