Rapid cold-hardening of Drosophila melanogaster (Diptera: Drosophilidae) during ecologically based thermoperiodic cycles

Jonathan D. Kelty, Richard E. Lee

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In contrast to most studies of rapid cold-hardening, in which abrupt transfers to low temperatures are used to induce an acclimatory response, the primary objectives of this study were to determine (i) whether rapid cold-hardening was induced during the cooling phase of an ecologically based thermoperiod, (ii) whether the protection afforded was lost during warming or contributed to increased cold-tolerance during subsequent cycles and (iii) whether the major thermally inducible stress protein (Hsp70) or carbohydrate cryoprotectants contributed to the protection afforded by rapid cold-hardening. During the cooling phase of a single ecologically based thermoperiod, the tolerance of Drosophila melanogaster to 1 h at -7°C increased from 5±5 % survival to 62.5±7.3 % (means ± S.E.M., N=40-60), while their critical thermal minima (CTmin) decreased by 1.9°C. Cold hardiness increased with the number of thermoperiods to which flies were exposed; i.e. flies exposed to six thermoperiods were more cold-tolerant than those exposed to two. Endogenous levels of Hsp70 and carbohydrate cryoprotectants were unchanged in rapidly cold-hardened adults compared with controls held at a constant 23°C. In nature, rapid cold-hardening probably affords subtle benefits during short-term cooling, such as allowing D. melanogaster to remain active at lower temperatures than they otherwise could.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1659-1666
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001


  • Acclimation
  • Cold shock
  • Cold tolerance
  • Cryoprotectant
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Heat-shock protein
  • Hsp70


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