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J Insect Physiol. 2008 Apr;54(4):645-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2008.01.003. Epub 2008 Jan 26.

Metabolomics reveals unique and shared metabolic changes in response to heat shock, freezing and desiccation in the Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica.

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Department of Entomology, Ohio State University, 318 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1242, USA.


The midge, Belgica antarctica Jacobs, is subjected to numerous environmental stressors during its 2-year life cycle on the Antarctic Peninsula, and in response it has evolved a suite of behavioral, physiological, and life-cycle modifications to counter these stressors, but thus far only a limited number of biochemical adaptations have been identified. In this study, we use a metabolomics approach to obtain a broad overview of changes in energy metabolism, amino acids, and polyols in response to three of the midge's major stresses: heat, freezing, and desiccation. Using GC-MS analysis, a total of 75 compounds were identified. Desiccation (50% water loss) elicited the greatest physiological response (as determined by principal components analysis) when compared to untreated controls, with many elevated metabolites from pathways of central carbohydrate metabolism and a decrease in free amino acids. When larvae were frozen (6h at -10 degrees C), alanine and aspartate increased as well as urea. Freezing also increased three polyols (glycerol, mannitol, erythritol), while desiccation increased only two polyols (glycerol, erythritol). Heating the midges for 1h at 30 degrees C elevated alpha-ketoglutarate and putrescine while suppressing glycerol, glucose, and serine levels. Freezing and desiccation elicited elevation of four shared metabolites, whereas no shared metabolites were elevated by heat. All three treatments resulted in a reduction in serine, potentially identifying this amino acid as a marker for stress in this species. A number of metabolic changes, especially those in the sugar and polyol pools, are adaptations that have potential to enhance survival during both cold and desiccation.

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