Navigation Links
How do polar bears stay warm? Research finds an answer in their genes

BUFFALO, N.Y. In the winter, brown and black bears go into hibernation to conserve energy and keep warm.

But things are different for their Arctic relative, the polar bear. Within this high-latitude species, only pregnant females den up for the colder months.

So how do the rest survive the extreme Arctic winters?

New research points to one potential answer: genetic adaptations related to the production of nitric oxide, a compound that cells use to help convert nutrients from food into energy or heat.

In a new study, a team led by the University at Buffalo reports that genes controlling nitric oxide production in the polar bear genome contain genetic differences from comparable genes in brown and black bears.

"With all the changes in the global climate, it becomes more relevant to look into what sorts of adaptations exist in organisms that live in these high-latitude environments," said lead researcher Charlotte Lindqvist, PhD, UB assistant professor of biological sciences.

"This study provides one little window into some of these adaptations," she said. "Gene functions that had to do with nitric oxide production seemed to be more enriched in the polar bear than in the brown bears and black bears. There were more unique variants in polar bear genes than in those of the other species."

The paper, titled "Polar Bears Exhibit Genome-Wide Signatures of Bioenergetic Adaptation to Life in the Arctic Environment," appeared Feb. 6 in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution. Co-authors include scientists from UB, Penn State University, the U.S.G.S. Alaska Science Center, Durham University and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The genetic adaptations the research team saw are important because of the crucial role that nitric oxide plays in energy metabolism.

Typically, cells transform nutrients into energy. However, there is a phenomenon called adaptive or non-shivering thermogenesis, where the cells will produce heat instead of energy in response to a particular diet or environmental conditions.

Levels of nitric oxide production may be a key switch triggering how much heat or energy is produced as cells metabolize nutrients, or how much of the nutrients is stored as fat, Lindqvist said.

"At high levels, nitric oxide may inhibit energy production," said Durham University's Andreanna Welch, PhD, first author and a former postdoctoral researcher at UB with Lindqvist. "At more moderate levels, however, it may be more of a tinkering, where nitric oxide is involved in determining whether and when energy or heat is produced."

The research is part of a larger research program devoted to understanding how the polar bear has adapted to the harsh Arctic environment, Lindqvist said.

In 2012, she and colleagues reported sequencing the genomes of multiple brown bears, black bears and polar bears.

In a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team said comparative studies between the DNA of the three species uncovered some distinctive polar bear traits, such as genetic differences that may affect the function of proteins involved in the metabolism of fat a process that's very important for insulation.

In the new study, the scientists looked at the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes of 23 polar bears, three brown bears and a black bear.


Contact: Charlotte Hsu
University at Buffalo

Related biology news :

1. International Polar Year conference: From knowledge to action
2. PCBs levels down in Norwegian polar bears
3. NRC authors brief federal agencies on the state of polar regions
4. Duck-billed dinosaurs endured long, dark polar winters
5. Polar And LOOK Launch The Worlds First Pedal-Based Power Cycling System
6. University of Texas Medical Branch selected to manage Center for Polar Medical Operations
7. Making sense out of the biological matrix of bipolar disorder
8. Finding life in the volcanic systems of the Antarctic Polar Front
9. Missing polar weather systems could impact climate predictions
10. MBL scientists find bipolar marine bacteria, refuting everything is everywhere idea
11. Dartmouth research offers new control strategies for bipolar bark beetles
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
How do polar bears stay warm? Research finds an answer in their genes
(Date:4/15/2016)... -- A new partnership announced today will help life ... a fraction of the time it takes today, ... insurance policies to consumers without requiring inconvenient and ... rapid testing (A1C, Cotinine and HIV) and higi,s ... pulse, BMI, and activity data) available at local ...
(Date:3/31/2016)...   LegacyXChange, Inc. ... LegacyXChange is excited to release its first ... be launched online site for trading 100% guaranteed authentic ... also provide potential shareholders a sense of the value ... industry that is notorious for fraud. The video is ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... PUNE, India , March 22, 2016 ... new market research report "Electronic Sensors Market for ... Fingerprint, Proximity, & Others), Application (Communication & ... and Geography - Global Forecast to 2022", ... consumer industry is expected to reach USD ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 A person commits a crime, ... scene to track the criminal down. An outbreak ... and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used ... investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , a precision ... million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). ... and to advance its drug development efforts, as well ... "SVB has been an incredible strategic partner ... a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. Aeron ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016  Blueprint Bio, a company dedicated ... the medical community, has closed its Series A funding ... . "We have received a commitment from ... we need to meet our current goals," stated ... the runway to complete validation on the current projects ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Velocity Products, a ... designed, tuned and optimized exclusively for Okuma CNC machining centers at The International ... a collaboration among several companies with expertise in toolholding, cutting tools, machining dynamics ...
Breaking Biology Technology: