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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25520. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025520. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

A comparative study of the short term cold resistance response in distantly related Drosophila species: the role of regucalcin and frost.

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IBMC-Instituto de Biologia Celular e Molecular, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.


The molecular basis of short term cold resistance (indexed as chill-coma recovery time) has been mostly addressed in D. melanogaster, where candidate genes (Dca (also known as smp-30) and Frost (Fst)) have been identified. Nevertheless, in Drosophila, the ability to tolerate short term exposure to low temperatures evolved several times independently. Therefore, it is unclear whether variation in the same candidate genes is also responsible for short term cold resistance in distantly related Drosophila species. It should be noted that Dca is a candidate gene for cold resistance in the Sophophora subgenus only, since there is no orthologous gene copy in the Drosophila subgenus. Here we show that, in D. americana (Drosophila subgenus), there is a north-south gradient for a variant at the 5' non-coding region of regucalcin (a Dca-like gene; in D. melanogaster the proteins encoded by the two genes share 71.9% amino acid identities) but in our D. americana F2 association experiment there is no association between this polymorphism and chill-coma recovery times. Moreover, we found no convincing evidence that this gene is up-regulated after cold shock in both D. americana and D. melanogaster. Size variation in the Fst PEST domain (putatively involved in rapid protein degradation) is observed when comparing distantly related Drosophila species, and is associated with short term cold resistance differences in D. americana. Nevertheless, this effect is likely through body size variation. Moreover, we show that, even at two hours after cold shock, when up-regulation of this gene is maximal in D. melanogaster (about 48 fold expression change), in D. americana this gene is only moderately up-regulated (about 3 fold expression change). Our work thus shows that there are important differences regarding the molecular basis of cold resistance in distantly related Drosophila species.

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