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How crickets become freeze tolerant: The transcriptomic underpinnings of acclimation in Gryllus veletis

Toxopeus, Jantina, Des Marteaux, Lauren E., Sinclair, Brent J.
Comparative biochemistry and physiology 2019 v.29 pp. 55-66
Gryllus, acclimation, antioxidants, autumn, cold tolerance, cryoprotectants, cytoskeleton, ectothermy, enzymes, fat body, freezing, gene expression, gene expression regulation, ice, insects, juveniles, metabolism, models, molecular weight, photoperiod, seasonal variation, sequence analysis, spring, temperate zones, temperature, transcriptome, transcriptomics, transporters
Some ectotherms can survive internal ice formation. In temperate regions, freeze tolerance is often induced by decreasing temperature and/or photoperiod during autumn. However, we have limited understanding of how seasonal changes in physiology contribute to freeze tolerance, and how these changes are regulated. During a six week autumn-like acclimation, late-instar juveniles of the spring field cricket Gryllus veletis (Orthoptera: Gryllidae) become freeze tolerant, which is correlated with accumulation of low molecular weight cryoprotectants, elevation of the temperature at which freezing begins, and metabolic rate suppression. We used RNA-Seq to assemble a de novo transcriptome of this emerging laboratory model for freeze tolerance research. We then focused on gene expression during acclimation in fat body tissue due to its role in cryoprotectant production and regulation of energetics. Acclimated G. veletis differentially expressed >3000 transcripts in fat body. This differential expression may contribute to metabolic suppression in acclimated G. veletis, but we did not detect changes in expression that would support cryoprotectant accumulation or enhanced control of ice formation, suggesting that these latter processes are regulated post-transcriptionally. Acclimated G. veletis differentially regulated transcripts that likely coordinate additional freeze tolerance mechanisms, including upregulation of enzymes that may promote membrane and cytoskeletal remodelling, cryoprotectant transporters, cytoprotective proteins, and antioxidants. Thus, while accumulation of cryoprotectants and controlling ice formation are commonly associated with insect freeze tolerance, our results support the hypothesis that many other systems contribute to surviving internal ice formation. Together, this information suggests new avenues for understanding the mechanisms underlying insect freeze tolerance.