Hibernator-Derived Cells Show Superior Protection and Survival in Hypothermia Compared to Non-Hibernator Cells

Koen Hendriks*, Christian Joschko, Femke Hoogstra-Berends, Janette Heegsma, Klaas Nico Faber, R. H. Henning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Mitochondrial failure is recognized to play an important role in a variety of diseases. We previously showed hibernating species to have cell-autonomous protective mechanisms to resist cellular stress and sustain mitochondrial function. Here, we set out to detail these mitochondrial features of hibernators. We compared two hibernator-derived cell lines (HaK and DDT1MF2) with two non-hibernating cell lines (HEK293 and NRK) during hypothermia (4 °C) and rewarming (37 °C). Although all cell lines showed a strong decrease in oxygen consumption upon cooling, hibernator cells maintained functional mitochondria during hypothermia, without mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening, mitochondrial membrane potential decline or decreased adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels, which were all observed in both non-hibernator cell lines. In addition, hibernator cells survived hypothermia in the absence of extracellular energy sources, suggesting their use of an endogenous substrate to maintain ATP levels. Moreover, hibernator-derived cells did not accumulate reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage and showed normal cell viability even after 48 h of cold-exposure. In contrast, non-hibernator cells accumulated ROS and showed extensive cell death through ferroptosis. Understanding the mechanisms that hibernators use to sustain mitochondrial activity and counteract damage in hypothermic circumstances may help to define novel preservation techniques with relevance to a variety of fields, such as organ transplantation and cardiac arrest.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1864
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9-Mar-2020


  • Adenosine Triphosphate/metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hibernation/physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia/metabolism
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial/physiology
  • Mitochondria/metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore/metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species/metabolism
  • Rewarming/methods

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