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Transcriptional responses to fluctuating thermal regimes underpinning differences in survival in the solitary bee Megachile rotundata

Alex S. Torson, George D. Yocum, Joseph P. Rinehart, William P. Kemp, Julia H. Bowsher
Journal of experimental biology 2015 v.218 no.7 pp. 1060-1068
Megachile rotundata, biochemical pathways, chilling injury, chronic exposure, cold treatment, gene expression regulation, homeostasis, immune response, longevity, neurogenesis, overwintering, oxidative stress, solitary bees, stress response, survival rate, temperature, thermal stress, transcription (genetics)
The transcriptional responses of insects to long-term, ecologically relevant temperature stress are poorly understood. Long-term exposure to low temperatures, commonly referred to as chilling, can lead to physiological effects collectively known as chill injury. Periodically increasing temperatures during long-term chilling has been shown to increase survival in many insects. However, the transcripts responsible for this increase in survival have never been characterized. Here, we present the first transcriptome-level analysis of increased longevity under fluctuating temperatures during chilling. Overwintering post-diapause quiescent alfalfa leafcutting bees ( Megachile rotundata ) were exposed to a constant temperature of 6°C, or 6°C with a daily fluctuation to 20°C. RNA was collected at two different time points, before and after mortality rates began to diverge between temperature treatments. Expression analysis identified differentially regulated transcripts between pairwise comparisons of both treatments and time points. Transcripts functioning in ion homeostasis, metabolic pathways and oxidative stress response were up-regulated in individuals exposed to periodic temperature fluctuations during chilling. The differential expression of these transcripts provides support for the hypotheses that fluctuating temperatures protect against chill injury by reducing oxidative stress and returning ion concentrations and metabolic function to more favorable levels. Additionally, exposure to fluctuating temperatures leads to increased expression of transcripts functioning in the immune response and neurogenesis, providing evidence for additional mechanisms associated with increased survival during chilling in M. rotundata .