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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

MicroRNAs facilitate skeletal muscle maintenance and metabolic suppression in hibernating brown bears

Luu, Bryan E.; Lefai, Etienne; Giroud, Sylvain; Swenson, Jon E.; Chazarin, Blandine; Gauquelin-Koch, Guillemette; Arnemo, Jon M.; Evans, Alina L.; Bertile, Fabrice; Storey, Kenneth B.


Hibernating brown bears, Ursus arctos, undergo extended periods of inactivity and yet these large hibernators are resilient to muscle disuse atrophy. Physiological characteristics associated with atrophy resistance in bear muscle have been examined (e.g., muscle mechanics, neural activity) but roles for molecular signaling/regulatory mechanisms in the resistance to muscle wasting in bears still require investigation. Using quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR), the present study characterized the responses of 36 microRNAs linked with development, metabolism, and regeneration of skeletal muscle, in the vastus lateralis of brown bears comparing winter hibernating and summer active animals. Relative levels of mRNA of selected genes (mef2a, pax7, id2, prkaa1, and mstn) implicated upstream and downstream of the microRNAs were examined. Results indicated that hibernation elicited a myogenic microRNA, or "myomiR", response via MEF2A-mediated signaling. Upregulation of MEF2A-controlled miR-1 and miR-206 and respective downregulation of pax7 and id2 mRNA are suggestive of responses that promote skeletal muscle maintenance. Increased levels of metabolic microRNAs, such as miR-27, miR-29, and miR-33, may facilitate metabolic suppression during hibernation via mechanisms that decrease glucose uptake and fatty acid oxidation. This study identified myomiR-mediated mechanisms for the promotion of muscle regeneration, suppression of ubiquitin ligases, and resistance to muscle atrophy during hibernation mediated by observed increases in miR-206, miR-221, miR-31, miR-23a, and miR-29b. This was further supported by the downregulation of myomiRs associated with a muscle injury and inflammation (miR-199a and miR-223) during hibernation. The present study provides evidence of myomiR-mediated signaling pathways that are activated during hibernation to maintain skeletal muscle functionality in brown bears.


atrophy; Mef2a; myomiR; noncoding RNA; ubiquitin ligase; Ursus arctos

Published in

Journal of Cellular Physiology
2020, Volume: 235, number: 4, pages: 3984-3993
Publisher: WILEY

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