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Eur J Biochem. 2000 Nov;267(21):6452-8.

Developmental and environmental regulation of antifreeze proteins in the mealworm beetle Tenebrio molitor.

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Departments of Biochemistry and Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


The yellow mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor, contains a family of small Cys-rich and Thr-rich thermal hysteresis proteins that depress the hemolymph freezing point below the melting point by as much as 5. 5 degrees C (DeltaT = thermal hysteresis). Thermal hysteresis protein expression was evaluated throughout development and after exposure to altered environmental conditions. Under favorable growth conditions, small larvae (11-13 mg) had only low levels of thermal hysteresis proteins or thermal hysteresis protein message, but these levels increased 10-fold and 18-fold, respectively, by the final larval instar (> 190 mg), resulting in thermal hysteresis > 3 degrees C. Exposure of small larvae (11-13 mg) to 4 weeks of cold (4 degrees C) caused an approximately 20-fold increase in thermal hysteresis protein concentration, well in excess of the less than threefold developmental increase seen after 4 weeks at 22 degrees C. Exposure of large larvae (100-120 mg) to cold caused 12-fold and sixfold increases in thermal hysteresis protein message and protein levels, respectively, approximately double the maximum levels they would have attained in the final larval instar at 22 degrees C. Thus, thermal hysteresis increased to similar levels (> 4 degrees C) in the cold, irrespective of the size of the larvae (the overwintering stage). At pupation, thermal hysteresis protein message levels decreased > 20-fold and remained low thereafter, but thermal hysteresis activity decreased much more slowly. Exposure to cold did not reverse this decline. Desiccation or starvation of larvae had comparable effects to cold exposure, but surprisingly, short daylength photoperiod or total darkness had no effect on either thermal hysteresis or message levels. As all environmental conditions that caused increased thermal hysteresis also inhibited growth, we postulate that developmental arrest is a primary factor in the regulation of T. molitor thermal hysteresis proteins.

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