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FEBS J. 2007 Apr;274(7):1759-67. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

Cold exposure and associated metabolic changes in adult tropical beetles exposed to fluctuating thermal regimes.

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UMR CNRS 6553, Université de Rennes 1, Rennes, France.


Environmental stress deleteriously affects every aspect of an ectotherm's biological function. Frequent exposure of terrestrial insects to temperature variation has thus led to the evolution of protective biochemical and physiological mechanisms. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying the positive impact of fluctuating thermal regimes (FTRs) on the fitness and survival of cold-exposed insects have not been studied. We have thus investigated the metabolic changes in adults of the beetle Alphitobius diaperinus in order to determine whether FTRs trigger the initiation of a metabolic response involving synthesis of protective compounds, such as free amino acids (FAAs) and polyols. The metabolic profile was analyzed during constant fluctuating thermal regimes (the beetles had daily pulses at higher temperatures that enabled them to recover) and compared with constant cold exposure and untreated controls. The increase of several essential amino acids (Lys, Iso, Leu, Phe and Trp) in cold-exposed beetles supports the conclusion that it results from the breakdown of proteins. Some FAAs have been shown to have cryoprotective properties in insects, but the relationship between FAAs, cold tolerance and survival has not yet been well defined. Instead of considering FAAs only as a part of the osmo- and cryoprotective arsenal, they should also be regarded as main factors involved in the multiple regulatory pathways activated during cold acclimation. Under FTRs, polyol accumulation probably contributes to the increased duration of survival in A. diaperinus.

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