Differential Expression Analysis of postprandial Python bivittatus reveals highly controlled mechanism of cell proliferation and tissue restructuring
The Burmese python demonstrates an extreme physiological response to feeding. Understood to be a mechanism to optimize metabolism of a large meal after prolonged period of fasting, Python bivittatus experiences rapid postprandial organ enlargement (as much as twice its internal organ wet mass). This research uncovered genes involved in organ growth response using RNA sequencing differential expression analysis between fed and fasting snakes. Previous research examined time points ranging from multiple days postfeeding to 6 hours postfeeding; we looked at the more immediate response ‘upon constriction, before swallowing prey’ and ‘immediately after swallowing prey’. Our results demonstrate the very rapid and highly controlled nature of the postprandial response, enabling regulated cell proliferation, adaptive hypoxic cell survival, and improved tissue restructuring after mass apoptosis. The quick transcriptional response indicates that food reaching the stomach is not the trigger, and we propose that hormonal and/or neurological stimuli initiate the transcription cascade that leads to organ growth.