Serum Immune-Related Proteins are Differentially Expressed during Hibernation in the American Black Bear
Hibernation is an adaptation to conserve energy in the face of extreme environmental conditions and low food availability that has risen in several animal phyla. This phenomenon is characterized by reduced metabolic rate (∼25% of the active basal metabolic rate in hibernating bears) and energy demand, while other physiological adjustments are far from clear. The profiling of the serum proteome of the American black bear (Ursus americanus) may reveal specific proteins that are differentially modulated by hibernation, and provide insight into the remarkable physiological adaptations that characterize ursid hibernation. In this study, we used differential gel electrophoresis (DIGE) analysis, liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry, and subsequent MASCOT analysis of the mass spectra to identify candidate proteins that are differentially expressed during hibernation in captive black bears. Seventy serum proteins were identified as changing by ±1.5 fold or more, out of which 34 proteins increased expression during hibernation. The majority of identified proteins are involved in immune system processes. These included α2-macroglobulin, complement components C1s and C4, immunoglobulin μ and J chains, clusterin, haptoglobin, C4b binding protein, kininogen 1, α2-HS-glycoprotein, and apoplipoproteins A-I and A-IV. Differential expression of a subset of these proteins identified by proteomic analysis was also confirmed by immunodetection. We propose that the observed serum protein changes contribute to the maintenance of the hibernation phenotype and health, including increased capacities for bone maintenance and wound healing during hibernation in bears.