Golden-mantled ground squirrel
Host - Dr Dave Morritt
Prof. Kenneth Storey
Carleton University, Canada
The living dead: metabolic arrest and the control of biological time
Although not part of human experience, torpor or dormancy is actually widespread across the animal kingdom and provides animals with a key survival mechanism in the face of daunting environmental challenges. Indeed, strong metabolic rate depression underlies multiple phenomena including estivation, diapause, freezing, anoxia tolerance, anhydrobiosis and mammalian hibernation. My laboratory is involved in analyzing the molecular mechanisms and regulatory principles that provide the common basis for metabolic arrest across phylogeny. Mammalian hibernation has perhaps the greatest relevance to the human condition for the molecular mechanisms that impart long term survival of hibernator organs in cold torpor have potential applications to medicine including improvement of hypothermic preservation of excised organs for transplant, ischemia resistance, and prevention of muscle atrophy. Hibernation is an amazing phenomenon – animals enter cycles of days/weeks of deep torpor where metabolic rate drops to <5% of normal resting rate, core body temperature falls to near 0°C, and all physiological functions are greatly suppressed and then they arouse again for short times using the heat generated by brown adipose tissue. Current studies in my lab are focused on signal transduction, gene expression and novel epigenetic mechanisms [histone and DNA modification] in multiple systems . Our newest work has been influential in showing the action of microRNA as a novel means of mRNA translational control. Many similarities exist in the molecular patterns found in all forms of metabolic rate depression [MRD] throughout all organisms .
Supported by NSERC Canada. For more information visit: www.carleton.ca/~kbstorey