Rasha Al-attar, M.Sc. Biology 2016

Regulation of the nuclear factor activated T cell (NFAT) family of transcription factors in the freeze tolerant wood frog, Rana sylvatica


During winter, wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) can endure whole body freezing with 65-70% of total body water converted to extracellular ice. As a result, cells experience extensive dehydration when water exits as well as anoxia due to interruption of blood flow. Adapting to such challenges requires metabolic rearrangement, partially mediated by transcription factor control over gene expression. Here, involvement of the nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) transcription factors, isoforms c1-c4, was analyzed in liver and skeletal muscle over freeze/thaw and anoxia/re-oxygenation cycles. Freezing activated NFATc3 in liver, leading to increased osteopontin expression and glycogen synthase kinase 3β repression (the latter potentially linked with glucose production as a cryoprotectant). Anoxia activated NFATc4 in liver, leading to increased atrial natriuretic peptide levels. Neither freezing nor anoxia significantly affected NFATs in skeletal muscle. Overall, the study indicates that NFATs have a crucial role to play in the natural cryoprotection of liver.