Rapid cold-hardening in larvae of the Antarctic midge Belgica antarctica: Cellular cold-sensing and a role for calcium

Nicholas M. Teets, Michael A. Elnitsky, Joshua B. Benoit, Giancarlo Lopez-Martinez, David L. Denlinger, Richard E. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


In many insects, the rapid cold-hardening (RCH) response significantly enhances cold tolerance in minutes to hours. Larvae of the Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica, exhibit a novel form of RCH, by which they increase their freezing tolerance. In this study, we examined whether cold-sensing and RCH in B. antarctica occur in vitro and whether calcium is required to generate RCH. As demonstrated previously, 1 h at -5° C significantly increased organismal freezing tolerance at both -15° C and -20° C. Likewise, RCH enhanced cell survival of fat body, Malpighian tubules, and midgut tissue of larvae frozen at -20° C. Furthermore, isolated tissues retained the capacity for RCH in vitro, as demonstrated with both a dye exclusion assay and a 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT)-based viability assay, thus indicating that coldsensing and RCH in B. antarctica occur at the cellular level. Interestingly, there was no difference in survival between tissues that were supercooled at -5° C and those frozen at -5° C, suggesting that temperature mediates the RCH response independent of the freezing of body fluids. Finally, we demonstrated that calcium is required for RCH to occur. Removing calcium from the incubating solution slightly decreased cell survival after RCH treatments, while blocking calcium with the intracellular chelator BAPTA-AM significantly reduced survival in the RCH treatments. The calmodulin inhibitor N-(6-aminohexyl)-5-chloro-1- naphthalenesulfonamide hydrochloride (W-7) also significantly reduced cell survival in the RCH treatments, thus supporting a role for calcium in RCH. This is the first report implicating calcium as an important second messenger in the RCH response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1938-R1946
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Calcium signaling
  • Freezetolerant insects
  • Insect cold-hardening
  • Rapid acclimation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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