Integr Comp Biol
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Multiple stressors, both abiotic and biotic, often are experienced simultaneously by organisms in nature. Responses to these stressors may share signaling pathways ("cross-talk") or protective mechanisms ("cross-tolerance"). Temperate and polar insects that must survive the winter experience low temperatures accompanied by additional abiotic stressors, such as low availability of water. Cold and desiccation have many similar effects at a cellular level, and we present evidence that the cellular mechanisms that protect against cold stress also protect against desiccation, and that the responses to cold and dehydration likely evolved as cross-tolerance. By contrast, there are several lines of evidence suggesting that low temperature stress elicits an upregulation of immune responses in insects (and vice versa). Because there is little mechanistic overlap between cold stress and immune stress at the cellular level, we suggest that this is cross-talk. Both cross-talk and cross-tolerance may be adaptive and likely evolved in response to synchronous stressors; however, we suggest that cross-talk and cross-tolerance may lead to different responses to changes in the timing and severity of multiple stress interactions in a changing world. We present a framework describing the potentially different responses of cross-tolerance and cross-talk to a changing environment and describe the nature of these impacts using interaction of cold-desiccation and cold-immunity in overwintering insects as an example.