Calcium-binding proteins (CBPs) can influence and react to Ca2+
transients and modulate the activity of proteins involved in both maintaining homeostatic conditions and protecting cells in harsh environmental conditions. Hibernation is a strategy that evolved in vertebrate and invertebrate species to survive in cold environments; it relies on molecular, cellular, and behavioral adaptations guided by the neuroendocrine system that together ensure unmatched tolerance to hypothermia, hypometabolism, and hypoxia. Therefore, hibernation is a useful model to study molecular neuroprotective adaptations to extreme conditions, and can reveal useful applications to human pathological conditions. In this review, we describe the known changes in Ca2+
-signaling and the detection and activity of CBPs in the nervous system of vertebrate and invertebrate models during hibernation, focusing on cytosolic Ca2+
buffers and calmodulin. Then, we discuss these findings in the context of the neuroprotective and neural plasticity mechanisms in the central nervous system: in particular, those associated with cytoskeletal proteins. Finally, we compare the expression of CBPs in the hibernating nervous system with two different conditions of neurodegeneration, i.e., platinum-induced neurotoxicity and Alzheimer’s disease, to highlight the similarities and differences and demonstrate the potential of hibernation to shed light into part of the molecular mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases.
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