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Membrane changes during hibernation

Nature volume 407, pages 317318 (21 September 2000) | Download Citation



Cellular membranes are susceptible to injury by cold, which causes their lipid components to separate1,2,3,4. Here we investigate the structural changes that occur in organelle membranes inside cells of the central nervous system of hypothermic ground squirrels during hibernation. We find that lipids in these membranes sequester into protein-free domains that laterally displace membrane proteins and the underlying cytoplasmic matrix. But when the animal is aroused from hibernation, all these components return to their normal arrangements as the body temperature rises. Understanding this reversible temperature-induced redistribution of membrane lipids should help in the study of the effects of severe cold on non-hibernating species (including humans) and in the cryopreservation of cells and tissues.

Organelle lipids undergo rapidly reversible rearrangement as body temperature drops.

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  1. *Stroke Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA

    • Nabil A. Azzam
    •  & John M. Hallenbeck
  2. †Section on Structural Cell Biology, National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892 , USA e-mail:

    • Bechara Kachar


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