Coordinated changes across the O2 transport pathway underlie adaptive increases in thermogenic capacity in high-altitude deer mice

Kevin B. Tate, Oliver H. Wearing, Catherine M. Ivy, Zachary A. Cheviron, Jay F. Storz, Grant B. McClelland, Graham R. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Animals native to the hypoxic and cold environment at high altitude provide an excellent opportunity to elucidate the integrative mechanisms underlying the adaptive evolution and plasticity of complex traits. The capacity for aerobic thermogenesis can be a critical determinant of survival for small mammals at high altitude, but the physiological mechanisms underlying the evolution of this performance trait remain unresolved. We examined this issue by comparing high-altitude deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) with low-altitude deer mice and white-footed mice (P. leucopus). Mice were bred in captivity and adults were acclimated to each of four treatments: warm (25°C) normoxia, warm hypoxia (12 kPa O2), cold (5°C) normoxia or cold hypoxia. Acclimation to hypoxia and/or cold increased thermogenic capacity in deer mice, but hypoxia acclimation led to much greater increases in thermogenic capacity in highlanders than in lowlanders. The high thermogenic capacity of highlanders was associated with increases in pulmonary O2 extraction, arterial O2 saturation, cardiac output and arterial-venous O2 difference. Mechanisms underlying the evolution of enhanced thermogenic capacity in highlanders were partially distinct from those underlying the ancestral acclimation responses of lowlanders. Environmental adaptation has thus enhanced phenotypic plasticity and expanded the physiological toolkit for coping with the challenges at high altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20192750
Number of pages1
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences
Issue number1927
StatePublished - May 27 2020


  • evolutionary physiology
  • high-altitude adaptation
  • metabolism
  • oxygen cascade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Coordinated changes across the O<sub>2</sub> transport pathway underlie adaptive increases in thermogenic capacity in high-altitude deer mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this