Highland native deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) have greater rates of lipid oxidation during maximal cold challenge in hypoxia (hypoxic cold-induced O2,max) compared with their lowland conspecifics. Lipid oxidation is also increased in deer mice acclimated to simulated high altitude (cold hypoxia), regardless of altitude ancestry. The underlying lipid metabolic pathway traits responsible for sustaining maximal thermogenic demand in deer mice is currently unknown. The objective of this study was to characterize key steps in the lipid oxidation pathway in highland and lowland deer mice acclimated to control (23°C, 21 kPa O2) or cold hypoxic (5°C, 12 kPa O2) conditions. We hypothesized that capacities for lipid delivery and tissue uptake will be greater in highlanders and further increase with cold hypoxia acclimation. With the transition from rest to hypoxic cold-induced O2,max, both highland and lowland deer mice showed increased plasma glycerol concentrations and fatty acid availability. Interestingly, acclimation to cold hypoxia led to increased plasma triglyceride concentrations at cold-induced O2,max, but only in highlanders. Highlanders also had significantly greater delivery rates of circulatory free fatty acids and triglycerides due to higher plasma flow rates at cold-induced O2,max. We found no population or acclimation differences in fatty acid translocase (FAT/CD36) abundance in the gastrocnemius or brown adipose tissue, suggesting that fatty acid uptake across membranes is not limiting during thermogenesis. Our data indicate that circulatory lipid delivery plays a major role in supporting the high thermogenic rates observed in highland versus lowland deer mice.

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