ABSTRACT

Small mammals exhibit seasonal changes in intestinal morphology and function via increased intestine size and resorptive surface and/or nutrient transport capacity to increase energy yield from food during winter. This study investigated whether seasonal or acute acclimation to anticipated or actual energetic challenges in Djungarian hamsters also resulted in higher nutrient resorption capacities owing to changes in small intestine histology and physiology. The hamsters show numerous seasonal energy-saving adjustments in response to short photoperiod. As spontaneous daily torpor represents one of these adjustments related to food quality and quantity, it was hypothesized that the hamsters' variable torpor expression patterns are influenced by their individual nutrient uptake capacity. Hamsters under short photoperiod showed longer small intestines and higher mucosal electrogenic transport capacities for glucose relative to body mass. Similar observations were made in hamsters under long photoperiod and food restriction. However, this acute energetic challenge caused a stronger increase of glucose transport capacity. Apart from that, neither fasting-induced torpor in food-restricted hamsters nor spontaneous daily torpor in short photoperiod-exposed hamsters clearly correlated with mucosal glucose transport capacity. Both seasonally anticipated and acute energetic challenges caused adjustments in the hamsters' small intestine. Short photoperiod appeared to induce an integration of these and other acclimation processes in relation to body mass to achieve a long-term adjustment of energy balance. Food restriction seemed to result in a more flexible, short-term strategy of maximizing energy uptake possibly via mucosal glucose transport and reducing energy consumption via torpor expression as an emergency response.

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