How Drosophila species acquire cold tolerance

Qualitative changes of phospholipids


  • Correspondence to C. Katagiri, Biochemistry Laboratory, The Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan 060

  • Abbreviations. LT25, LT50 and LT75, temperatures which killed 25 %, 50 % and 75 % of population, respectively; tm and th, gel/liquid and liquid/hexagonal transition temperatures; Lin2GroPEtn, dilinoleoylglycerophosphoethanolamine; Ole2GroPCho, dioleoylglycerophosphocholine.


Phospholipids of many cold-tolerant organisms have been reported to contain more unsaturated fatty acids than cold-susceptible organisms, a phenomenon known to maintain membrane fluidity at low temperature. However, we have obtained results to the contrary through a comparison of the membrane phospholipids of six temperate and subtropical species belonging to the Drosophila melanogaster species group. With enhancement of cold tolerance, the percentages of monoenoic acids increased but the percentages of dienoic acids decreased, that is, the number of double bonds in the phospholipid decreased without a marked variation in the percentages of unsaturated fatty acids. Concomitantly, the percentage of fatty acids containing 16 carbon atoms increased, while that of fatty acids with 18 carbon atoms decreased. Since phosphatidylethanolamine is a dominant phospholipid in Drosophila, these changes probably contribute to keeping the homeoviscosity of the cellular membranes in a manner different to that in phosphatidylcholine-rich membranes, thereby increasing cold tolerance.