Mitochondrial proton leak compensates for reduced oxidative power during frequent hypothermic events in a protoendothermic mammal, Echinops telfairi

Elias T. Polymeropoulos, R. Oelkrug, M. Jastroch


© 2017 Polymeropoulos, Oelkrug and Jastroch. The lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi) displays reptile-like thermoregulatory behavior with markedly high variability in body temperature and metabolic rate. To understand how energy metabolism copes with this flexibility, we studied the bioenergetics of isolated liver mitochondria from cold (20°C) and warm (27°C) acclimated tenrecs. Different acclimation temperatures had no impact on mitochondrial respiration using succinate as the substrate. Mimicking the variation of body temperature by changing assay temperatures from 22 to 32°C highlighted temperature-sensitivity of respiration. The 40% reduction of respiratory control ratio (RCR) at 22°C compared to 32°C, a common estimate for mitochondrial efficiency, was caused by reduced substrate oxidation capacity. The simultaneous measurement of mitochondrial membrane potential enabled the precise assessment of efficiency with corrected respiration rates. Using this method, we show that proton leak respiration at the highest common membrane potential was not affected by acclimation temperature but was markedly decreased by assay temperature. Using membrane potential corrected respiration values, we show that the fraction of ATP-linked respiration (coupling efficiency) was maintained (70-85%) at lower temperatures. Collectively, we demonstrate that compromised substrate oxidation was temperature-compensated by the reduction of proton leak, thus maintaining the efficiency of mitochondrial energy conversion. Therefore, membrane potential data suggest that adjustments of mitochondrial proton leak contribute to energy homeostasis during thermoregulatory flexibility of tenrecs.
Original languageGerman
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - 10.11.2017

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