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    African mole-rats live in self-dug burrow systems under hypoxic and hypercapnic conditions. Adaptations to hypoxia include suppression of resting metabolic rate (RMR) and core body temperature (Tb). Because the thyroid hormones (THs) thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) are positive regulators of RMR and Tb, we hypothesized that serum TH concentrations would also be downregulated under hypoxic conditions. To test this hypothesis, we kept Ansell's mole-rats (Fukomys anselli) in terraria filled with soil in which they were allowed to construct underground burrows to achieve chronic intermittent hypoxia and hypercapnia. The animals stayed in these hypoxic and hypercapnic burrows voluntarily, although given the choice to stay aboveground. We collected blood samples before and after treatment to measure serum T4 and T3 concentrations as well as hematological parameters. The free fraction of the transcriptionally-active T3 was significantly decreased after treatment, indicating that cellular TH signaling was downregulated via peripheral mechanisms, consistent with the assumption that aerobic metabolism is downregulated under hypoxic conditions. Furthermore, we found that hematocrit and hemoglobin concentrations were also downregulated after treatment, suggesting that oxygen demand decreases under hypoxia, presumably due to the metabolic shift towards anaerobic metabolism. Taken together, we have identified a potential upstream regulator of physiological adaptations to hypoxia in these highly hypoxia-tolerant animals. © 2023. The Author(s).


    Yoshiyuki Henning, Kamilla Adam, Patricia Gerhardt, Sabine Begall. Hypoxic and hypercapnic burrow conditions lead to downregulation of free triiodothyronine and hematocrit in Ansell's mole-rats (Fukomys anselli). Journal of comparative physiology. B, Biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology. 2024 Feb;194(1):33-40

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    PMID: 38059996

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