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J Insect Physiol. 2009 Mar;55(3):243-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2008.11.015. Epub 2009 Jan 20.

Membrane remodeling and glucose in Drosophila melanogaster: a test of rapid cold-hardening and chilling tolerance hypotheses.

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  • 1Department of Biology, The University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond St. N, London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada.


Insect cold tolerance varies at both the population and species levels. Carbohydrate cryoprotectants and membrane remodeling are two main mechanisms hypothesised to increase chilling tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster, as part of both long-term (i.e., evolutionary) change and rapid cold-hardening (RCH). We used cold-selected lines of D. melanogaster with and without a pre-exposure that induces RCH to test three hypotheses: (1) that increased cold tolerance would be associated with increased free glucose; (2) that increased cold tolerance would be associated with desaturation of membrane phospholipid fatty acids; and (3) that increased cold tolerance would be associated with a change in phospholipid head group composition. We used colourimetric assays to measure free glucose and a combination of thin layer chromatography-flame ionization detection and gas chromatography to measure membrane composition. We observed a consistent decrease in free glucose with RCH, and no relationship between free glucose and basal cold tolerance. Also, phospholipid head group ratios and fatty acid composition showed no change following an RCH treatment. Thus, we conclude that changes in free glucose and membrane composition are unlikely to be significant determinants of variation in cold tolerance of D. melanogaster.

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