Identification of a lipid-rich depot in the orbital cavity of the 13-lined ground squirrel
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AbstractWe discovered a previously undescribed orbital lipid depot in the 13-lined ground squirrel during the first ever magnetic resonance image (MRI) of this common experimental model of mammalian hibernation. In animals housed at constant ambient temperatures (5ºC or 25ºC, 12h L:12h D photoperiod) the volume of this depot increased in the autumn and decreased in the spring, suggesting an endogenous circannual pattern. Water-fat MRI revealed that throughout the year this depot is composed of ~40% lipid, similar to brown adipose tissue (BAT). During arousal from torpor, thermal images showed higher surface temperatures near this depot before the rest of the head warmed, suggesting a thermoregulatory function. This depot, however, does not contain uncoupling protein 1, a BAT biomarker, or uncoupling protein 3. Histology shows blood vessels in close proximity to each other, suggesting it may serve as a vascular rete, perhaps to preferentially warm the eye and brain during arousals.