Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
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Chill-susceptible insects enter the reversible state of chill coma at their critical thermal minimum (CTmin). During chill coma, movement of Na+ and water from the hemolymph to the gut lumen disrupt ion and water balance. Recovery from cold exposure requires re-establishment of this balance, and failure to do so results in chilling injury or death. We hypothesized that the passive leak of Na+ and consequently water during cold exposure is driven by the [Na+] differential between the gut and hemolymph. To determine the extent to which this [Na+] differential affects cold tolerance, we used artificial diets to load the guts of fall field crickets (Gryllus pennsylvanicus) with various concentrations of Na+. Manipulating [Na+] differentials had no effect on the CTmin, agreeing with recent studies demonstrating that chill coma onset precedes loss of ion balance in the cold). A high [Na+] diet reversed the direction of the [Na+] differential between the gut and hemolymph. Crickets fed a high [Na+] diet recovered from 12 h of chill coma nearly twice as fast as those fed low [Na+] diets. However, the high [Na+] diet was detrimental to survival after prolonged cold exposure (three days at 0 °C). Therefore, while a reduced [Na+] differential helps crickets recover from short-term cold exposure, an increased gut Na+ load itself appears to carry longer-term costs and promotes irreversible chilling injury.
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