This study investigated the effects of hibernation with mild hypothermia and the stress of captivity on levels of six acute-phase proteins (APPs) in serial samples of serum from 11 wild and 6 captive black bears (Ursus americanus Pallas, 1780) during active and hibernating states. We hypothesize that during hibernation with mild hypothermia, bears would show an APP response similar to that observed in major depression. Enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay was used to measure alpha2-macroglobulin and C-reactive protein, and a nephelometer to measure alpha1-antitrypsin, haptoglobin, ceruloplasmin, and transferrin. Levels of all other proteins except ceruloplasmin were significantly elevated during hibernation in both wild and captive bears at the p < 0.05 to p < 0.001 level. Alpha 2-macroglobulin and C-reactive-protein levels were increased in captive versus wild bears in both active and hibernating states at the p < 0.01 to p < 0.0001 level. During hibernation with mild hypothermia, black bears do not show immunosuppression, but show an increased APP response similar to that in patients with major depression. This APP response is explained as an adaptive response to the underlying metabolic depression in both conditions. Metabolic depression in hibernating bears is suggested as a natural model for research to explain the neurobiology of depression.
Additional publication details
Similarities in acute phase protein response during hibernation in black bears and major depression in humans: A response to underlying metabolic depression?