Perineuronal net expression in the brain of a hibernating mammal
During hibernation, mammals like the 13-lined ground squirrel cycle between physiological extremes. Most of the hibernation season is spent in bouts of torpor, where body temperature, heart rate, and cerebral blood flow are all very low. However, the ground squirrels periodically enter into interbout arousals (IBAs), where physiological parameters return to non-hibernating levels. During torpor, neurons in many brain regions shrink and become electrically quiescent, but reconnect and regain activity during IBA. Previous work showed evidence of extracellular matrix (ECM) changes occurring in the hypothalamus during hibernation that could be associated with this plasticity. Here, we examined expression of a specialized ECM structure, the perineuronal net (PNN), in the forebrain of ground squirrels in torpor, IBA, and summer (non-hibernating). PNNs are known to restrict plasticity, and could be important for retaining essential connections in the brain during hibernation. We found PNNs in three regions of the hypothalamus: ventrolateral hypothalamus, paraventricular nucleus (PVN), and anterior hypothalamic area. We also found PNNs throughout the cerebral cortex, amygdala, and lateral septum. The total area covered by PNNs within the PVN was significantly higher during IBA compared to non-hibernating and torpor (P < 0.01). Additionally, the amount of PNN coverage area per Nissl-stained neuron in the PVN was significantly higher in hibernation compared to non-hibernating (P < 0.05). No other significant differences were found across seasons. The PVN is involved in food intake and homeostasis, and PNNs found here could be essential for retaining vital life functions during hibernation.
KeywordsHibernation Perineuronal nets Paraventricular nucleus Torpor
This study was funded by a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Faculty Research Grant to CS and a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Undergraduate Research and Creativity Grant to AM.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (protocol #14–15). This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
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