The thermogenic activity [mitochondrial guanosine 5'-diphosphate (GDP) binding] and capacity (uncoupling protein concentration, cytochrome oxidase activity) of brown adipose tissue have been investigated at different phases of the seasonally linked hibernation cycle in Richardson's ground squirrel. The amount of axillary brown adipose tissue and the total mitochondrial content of the tissue were substantially greater in hibernating squirrels than in squirrels caught posthibernation in April or May; cold acclimation induced qualitatively similar differences. The specific mitochondrial concentration of uncoupling protein was high under all conditions (compared with other species), differing little between hibernating, posthibernating, and cold-acclimated squirrels. The thermogenic capacity of brown adipose tissue in Richardson's ground squirrels is therefore modulated almost exclusively by changes in the mitochondrial content of the tissue. Mitochondrial GDP binding was increased on cold acclimation, but similar binding levels were observed in hibernating and posthibernation (May) animals. GDP binding and the GDP-sensitive component of acetate-induced mitochondrial swelling were increased during the early stages of arousal from hibernation. These changes, which indicate an activation of the thermogenic proton conductance pathway in arousal, occurred without an alteration in the specific mitochondrial concentration of uncoupling protein. Increased GDP binding during arousal is clearly due to the unmasking of binding sites, reflecting an acute activation of preexisting uncoupling protein.
- Copyright © 1989 the American Physiological Society