In two species of hibernators, hamsters and ground squirrels, erythrocytes were collected by heart puncture and the K content of the cells of hibernating individuals was compared with that of awake individuals. The K concentration of hamsters did not decline significantly during each bout of hibernation (maximum period of 5 days) but in long-term bouts in ground squirrels (i.e. more than 5 days) the K concentration of cells dropped significantly. When ground squirrels were allowed to rewarm the K content of cells rose toward normal values within a few hours. Erythrocytes of both hamsters and ground squirrels lose K more slowly than those of guinea pigs (nonhibernators) when stored in vitro for up to 10 days at 5°C. In ground squirrels the rate of loss of K during storage is the same as in vivo during hibernation, and stored cells taken from hibernating ground squirrels also lose K at the same rate. The rate of loss of K from guinea pig cells corresponded with that predicted from passive diffusion unopposed by transport. The actual rate of loss of K from ground squirrel cells was slower than such a predicted rate but corresponded with it when glucose was omitted from the storage medium or ouabain was added to it. Despite the slight loss of K that may occur in hibernation, therefore, the cells of hibernators are more cold adapted than those of a nonhibernating mammal, and this adaptation depends in part upon active transport.
Resistance of Erythrocytes of Hibernating Mammals to Loss of Potassium during Hibernation and during Cold Storage
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S. L. Kimzey, J. S. Willis; Resistance of Erythrocytes of Hibernating Mammals to Loss of Potassium during Hibernation and during Cold Storage . J Gen Physiol 1 December 1971; 58 (6): 620–633. doi: https://doi.org/10.1085/jgp.58.6.620
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