Journal of insect physiology
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Cold-acclimated insects maintain ion and water balance in the cold, potentially by reducing permeability or increasing diffusion distance across ionoregulatory epithelia such as the rectum. We explored whether cold acclimation induces structural modifications that minimize water and ion diffusion across the rectum and maintain rectal cell integrity. We investigated rectal structure and cytoskeletal stability in chill-susceptible adult Gryllus pennsylvanicus crickets acclimated for one week to either warm (25 °C) or cold (12 °C) conditions. After acclimation, we used light and transmission electron microscopy to examine rectal macromorphology and rectal pad paracellular ultrastructure. We also used fluorescence microscopy and a filamentous-actin (F-actin) specific phalloidin stain to compare the polymerization state of the actin cytoskeleton for each of the acclimation groups before and after a cold shock (1 h at -4 °C). Cold acclimation did not alter rectal pad cell density, or the thickness of the rectal pads, muscle, or cuticle. The tortuosity and width of the rectal pad paracellular channels also did not differ between warm- and cold-acclimated crickets. Rectal pad cells had clear basal and apical regions with differing densities of F-actin. Cold shock reduced the density of F-actin in warm-acclimated crickets, whereas cold-acclimated crickets appeared to have unchanged (basal) or enhanced (apical) F-actin density after cold shock. This suggests that while cold acclimation does not modify rectal permeability through structural modifications to increase diffusion distance for water and ions, cold-acclimated crickets have a modified cytoskeleton that resists the depolymerising effects of cold shock.
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