Seasonal upregulation of catabolic enzymes and fatty acid transporters in the flight muscle of migrating hoary bats, Lasiurus cinereus

Liam P. McGuire, M. Brock Fenton, Christopher G. Guglielmo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


The high energy density of fat, and limited capacity for carbohydrate storage suggest that migrating bats should fuel endurance flights with fat, as observed in migrating birds. Yet, cursorial mammals are unable to support high intensity exercise with fat stores. We hypothesized that migratory bats and birds have converged on similar physiological mechanisms to fuel endurance flight with fat. We predicted bats would seasonally upregulate fatty acid transport and oxidation pathways when migration demands were high. We studied seasonal variation in mitochondrial oxidative enzyme activities and fatty acid transport protein expression in the flight muscle of hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus). Carnitine palmitoyl transferase, 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase and citrate synthase activity increased during migration. There were no changes in expression of fatty acid translocase or plasma membrane fatty acid binding protein. Heart-type fatty acid binding protein expression increased 5-fold in migrating females, but did not vary seasonally in males. An aerial insectivore lifestyle, and the coincidence of migration and pregnancy may explain differences in transporter expression compared to previously studied birds. Overall, our results are consistent with seasonal upregulation of lipid metabolism and aerobic capacity, and confirm that migration poses distinct physiological challenges for bats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-143
Number of pages6
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013



  • Aerobic capacity
  • Fatty acid binding protein
  • Lipid oxidation
  • Lipid transport
  • Migration

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