Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) have an extraordinary capacity to withstand prolonged and profound reductions in blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain without incurring any cellular damage. As such, the hibernation torpor of I. tridecemlineatus provides a valuable model of tolerance to ischemic stress. Herein, we report that during hibernation torpor, a marked reduction in the phosphorylation of the ribosomal protein S6 (rpS6) occurs within the brains of I. tridecemlineatus. Of note, rpS6 phosphorylation was shown to increase in the brains of rats that underwent an occlusion of the middle cerebral artery. However, such an increase was attenuated after the implementation of an ischemic preconditioning paradigm. In addition, cultured cortical neurons treated with the rpS6 kinase (S6K) inhibitors, d-glucosamine or PF4708671, displayed a decrease in rpS6 phosphorylation and a subsequent increase in tolerance to oxygen/glucose deprivation, an in vitro model of ischemic stroke. Collectively, such evidence suggests that the down-regulation of rpS6 signal transduction may account for a substantial part of the observed increase in cellular tolerance to brain ischemia that occurs during hibernation torpor and after ischemic preconditioning. Further identification and characterization of the mechanisms used by hibernating species to increase ischemic tolerance may eventually clarify how the loss of homeostatic control that occurs during and after cerebral ischemia in the clinic can ultimately be minimized and/or prevented.
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