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Journal of insect physiology



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Cold exposure appears to activate aspects of the insect immune system; however, the functional significance of the relationship between cold and immunity is unclear. Insect success at low temperatures is shaped in part by interactions with biotic stressors, such as pathogens, thus it is important to understand how and why immunity might be activated by cold. Here we explore which components of the immune system are activated, and whether those components differ among different kinds of cold exposure. We exposed Drosophila melanogaster to both acute (2h, -2°C) and sustained (10h, -0.5°C) cold, and measured potential (antimicrobial peptide expression, phenoloxidase activity, haemocyte counts) and realised (survival of fungal infection, wound-induced melanisation, bacterial clearance) immunity following recovery. Acute cold increased circulating haemocyte concentration and the expression of Turandot-A and diptericin, but elicited a short-term decrease in the clearance of gram-positive bacteria. Sustained cold increased the expression of Turandot-A, with no effect on other measures of potential or realised immunity. We show that measures of potential immunity were up-regulated by cold, whereas realised immunity was either unaffected or down-regulated. Thus, we hypothesize that cold-activation of potential immunity in Drosophila may be a compensatory mechanism to maintain stable immune function during or after low temperature exposure.

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