Rapid cold hardening improves recovery of ion homeostasis and chill coma recovery time in the migratory locust, Locusta migratoria

J Exp Biol. 2013 May 1;216(Pt 9):1630-7. doi: 10.1242/jeb.081141. Epub 2013 Jan 24.


Chill tolerance of insects is defined as the ability to tolerate low temperature under circumstances not involving freezing of intracellular or extracellular fluids. For many insects chill tolerance is crucial for their ability to persist in cold environments and mounting evidence indicates that chill tolerance is associated with the ability to maintain ion and water homeostasis, thereby ensuring muscular function and preventing chill injury at low temperature. The present study describes the relationship between muscle and haemolymph ion homeostasis and time to regain posture following cold shock (CS, 2 h at -4°C) in the chill-susceptible locust Locusta migratoria. This relationship was examined in animals with and without a prior rapid cold-hardening treatment (RCH, 2 h at 0°C) to investigate the physiological underpinnings of RCH. CS elicited a doubling of haemolymph [K(+)] and this disturbance was greater in locusts pre-exposed to RCH. Recovery of ion homeostasis was, however, markedly faster in RCH-treated animals, which correlated well with whole-organism performance as hardened individuals regained posture faster than non-hardened individuals following CS. The present study indicates that loss and recovery of muscular function are associated with the resting membrane potential of excitable membranes as attested by the changes in the equilibrium potential for K(+) (EK) following CS. Both hardened and non-hardened animals regained movement once K(+) homeostasis had recovered to a fixed level (EK≈-41 mV). RCH is therefore not associated with altered sensitivity to ion disturbance but instead is correlated to a faster recovery of haemolymph [K(+)].

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Cold-Shock Response / physiology
  • Hemolymph / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Ions
  • Locusta migratoria / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Ions