Seasonal Control of Mammalian Energy Balance: Recent advances in the understanding of daily torpor and hibernation

Martin Jastroch, Sylvain Giroud, Perry Barrett, Fritz Geiser, Gerhard Heldmaier, Annika Herwig

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54 Citations (Scopus)
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Endothermic mammals and birds require intensive energy turnover to sustain high body temperatures and metabolic rates. To cope with energetic bottlenecks associated with the change of seasons, and to minimise energy expenditure, complex mechanisms and strategies, such as daily torpor and hibernation, are used. During torpor metabolic depression and low body temperatures save energy. However, these bouts of torpor lasting for hours to weeks are interrupted by active 'euthermic' phases with high body temperatures. These dynamic transitions require precise communication between the brain and peripheral tissues to defend rheostasis in energetics, body mass and body temperature. The hypothalamus appears to be the major control centre in the brain, coordinating energy metabolism and body temperature. The sympathetic nervous system controls body temperature by adjustments of shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis, the latter being primarily executed by brown adipose tissue. Over the last decade, comparative physiologists have put forward integrative studies on the ecophysiology, biochemistry and molecular regulation of energy balance in response to seasonal challenges, food availability and ambient temperature. Mammals coping with such environments represent excellent model organisms to study the dynamic regulation of energy metabolism. Beyond the understanding of how animals survive in nature, these studies also uncover general mechanisms of mammalian energy homeostasis. This research will benefit efforts of translational medicine to combat emerging human metabolic disorders. This review focuses on recent advances in the understanding of energy balance and its neuronal and endocrine control during the most extreme metabolic fluctuations in nature: daily torpor and hibernation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number11
Early online date18 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • daily torpor
  • hibernation
  • metabolic suppression
  • hypothalamus
  • brown adipose tissue


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