The Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) is an endemic and rare species in China, and is considered to be one of the most endangered vertebrates in the world. It is known to hibernate, an energy-saving strategy against cold temperatures and food deprivation. Changes in gene expression during hibernation remain largely unknown. To understand these complex seasonal adaptive mechanisms, we performed a comprehensive survey of differential gene expression in heart, skeletal muscle, and kidney of hibernating and active Chinese alligators using RNA-Sequencing. In total, we identified 4780 genes differentially expressed between the active and hibernating periods. GO and KEGG pathway analysis indicated the likely role of these differentially expressed genes (DEGs). The upregulated DEGs in the active Chinese alligator, CSRP3, MYG and PCKGC, may maintain heart and skeletal muscle contraction, transport and storage of oxygen, and enhance the body’s metabolism, respectively. The upregulated DEGs in the dormant Chinese alligator, ADIPO, CIRBP and TMM27, may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose/lipid metabolism, protect cells against harmful effects of cold temperature and hypoxia, regulate amino acid transport and uptake, and stimulate the proliferation of islet cells and the secretion of insulin. These results provide a foundation for understanding the molecular mechanisms of the seasonal adaptation required for hibernation in Chinese alligators, as well as effective information for other non-model organisms research.
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Vol. 66 • No. 2