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J Exp Biol. 1990 Jan;148:245-54.

A rapid cold-hardening response protecting against cold shock injury in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Zoology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056.


In studies of insect cold-hardiness, the supercooling point (SCP) is defined as the temperature at which spontaneous nucleation of body fluids occurs. Despite having an SCP of -20 degrees C, adults of Drosophila melanogaster did not survive exposure to -5 degrees C, which suggests that cold shock causes lethal injury that is not associated with freezing. If, however, flies were chilled at 5 degrees C, for as little as 30 min, approximately 50% of the flies survived exposure to -5 degrees C for 2h. This capacity to cold-harden rapidly was greatest in 3- and 5-day-old adults. The rapid cold-hardening response was also observed in larvae and pupae: no larvae survived 2 h of exposure to -5 degrees C, whereas 63% pupariated if chilled at 5 degrees C before subzero exposure. Similarly, although exposure of pupae to -8 degrees C was lethal, if pre-chilled at 5 degrees C 22% eclosed. This extremely rapid cold-hardening response may function to allow insects to enhance cold-tolerance in response to diurnal or unexpected seasonal decreases in environmental temperature.

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