The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an insect of tropical origin. Its larval stage is evolutionarily adapted for rapid growth and development under warm conditions and shows high sensitivity to cold. In this study, we further developed an optimal acclimation and freezing protocol that significantly improves larval freeze tolerance (an ability to survive at −5°C when most of the freezable fraction of water is converted to ice). Using the optimal protocol, freeze survival to adult stage increased from 0.7% to 12.6% in the larvae fed standard diet (agar, sugar, yeast, cornmeal). Next, we fed the larvae diets augmented with 31 different amino compounds, administered in different concentrations, and observed their effects on larval metabolomic composition, viability, rate of development and freeze tolerance. While some diet additives were toxic, others showed positive effects on freeze tolerance. Statistical correlation revealed tight association between high freeze tolerance and high levels of amino compounds involved in arginine and proline metabolism. Proline- and arginine-augmented diets showed the highest potential, improving freeze survival to 42.1% and 50.6%, respectively. Two plausible mechanisms by which high concentrations of proline and arginine might stimulate high freeze tolerance are discussed: (i) proline, probably in combination with trehalose, could reduce partial unfolding of proteins and prevent membrane fusions in the larvae exposed to thermal stress (prior to freezing) or during freeze dehydration; (ii) both arginine and proline are exceptional among amino compounds in their ability to form supramolecular aggregates which probably bind partially unfolded proteins and inhibit their aggregation under increasing freeze dehydration.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
V.K. designed the research. V.K., J.K., R.P., M.M. and P.Š. performed the research. V.K. wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the paper.
This work was supported by Grantová agentura České republiky grant 13-01057S (to V.K.). R.P. received his salary from Modbiolin grant no. 316304 sponsored by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013).
Supplementary information available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jeb.142158.supplemental
- Received April 20, 2016.
- Accepted May 25, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd