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Keywords:

  • cold acclimation;
  • fatty acid;
  • phosphatidylcholine;
  • phosphatidylethanolamine;
  • phospholipid;
  • saturation

Abstract

Cold acclimation is a well-known strategy for enhancing cold tolerance in ectotherms including insects. Nevertheless, information on the physiological mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon is still limited. Biological membrane integrity is critical for insects to perform at low temperatures, and an advantage is conferred on those insects that can adjust the composition of their membrane phospholipids. Such changes contribute to homeoviscous adaptation, a process that allows membranes to maintain a liquid–crystalline (fluid) state at low temperatures. Here we investigated phospholipids in the flesh fly Sarcophaga similis acclimated to various temperatures. Significant differences were observed in the composition of their fatty acyl chains: flies acclimated to low temperatures showed a higher proportion of palmitic and oleic acids at the expense of palmitoleic acid. Other fatty acids (stearic, linoleic, linolenic, arachidonic, eicosapentaenoic acids) were not significantly changed. The degree of unsaturation decreased in cold-acclimated flies, but the difference was quite small. The weighted average chain length and number of double bonds were unchanged among flies acclimated to different temperatures. As temperatures decreased, the percentage of phosphatidylethanolamine increased to twice that of phosphatidylcholine. We discuss the role of these phospholipid changes in cold acclimation.