Molecular Mechanisms of Winter Survival

Nicholas M. Teets, Katie E. Marshall, Julie A. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Winter provides many challenges for insects, including direct injury to tissues and energy drain due to low food availability. As a result, the geographic distribution of many species is tightly coupled to their ability to survive winter. In this review, we summarize molecular processes associated with winter survival, with a particular focus on coping with cold injury and energetic challenges. Anticipatory processes such as cold acclimation and diapause cause wholesale transcriptional reorganization that increases cold resistance and promotes cryoprotectant production and energy storage. Molecular responses to low temperature are also dynamic and include signaling events during and after a cold stressor to prevent and repair cold injury. In addition, we highlight mechanisms that are subject to selection as insects evolve to variable winter conditions. Based on current knowledge, despite common threads, molecular mechanisms of winter survival vary considerably across species, and taxonomic biases must be addressed to fully appreciate the mechanistic basis of winter survival across the insect phylogeny.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-339
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 23 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Annual Reviews Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • acclimation
  • cold tolerance
  • diapause
  • energetics
  • stress
  • winter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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