Terrestrial arthropods survive subzero temperatures by becoming either freeze tolerant (survive body fluid freezing) or freeze avoiding (prevent body fluid freezing). Protein ice nucleators (PINs), which limit supercooling and induce freezing, and antifreeze proteins (AFPs), which function to prevent freezing, can have roles in both freeze tolerance and avoidance. Many freeze-tolerant insects produce hemolymph PINs, which induce freezing at high subzero temperatures thereby inhibiting lethal intracellular freezing. Some freeze-tolerant species have AFPs that function as cryoprotectants to prevent freeze damage. Although the mechanism of this cryoprotection is not known, it may involve recrystallization inhibition and perhaps stabilization of the cell membrane. Freeze-avoiding species must prevent inoculative freezing initiated by external ice across the cuticle and extend supercooling abilities. Some insects remove PINs in the winter to promote supercooling, whereas others have selected against surfaces with ice-nucleating abilities on an evolutionary time scale. However, many freeze-avoiding species do have proteins with ice-nucleating activity, and these proteins must be masked in winter. In the beetle , AFPs in the hemolymph and gut inhibit ice nucleators. Also, hemolymph AFPs and those associated with the layer of epidermal cells under the cuticle inhibit inoculative freezing. Two different insect AFPs have been characterized. One type from the beetles and consists of 12- and 13-mer repeating units with disulfide bridges occurring at least every six residues. The spruce budworm AFP lacks regular repeat units. Both have much higher activities than any known AFPs.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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