Chill-susceptible insects, like the migratory locust, often die when exposed to low temperatures from an accumulation of tissue damage that is unrelated to freezing (chilling injury). Chilling injury is often associated with a loss of ion balance across the gut epithelia. It has recently been suggested that this imbalance is at least partly caused by a cold-induced disruption of epithelial barrier function. Here, we aimed to test this hypothesis in the migratory locust (Locustamigratoria). First, chill tolerance was quantified by exposing locusts to -2°C and recording chill coma recovery time and survival 24 h post-cold exposure. Longer exposure times significantly increased recovery time and caused injury and death. Ion-selective microelectrodes were also used to test for a loss of ion balance in the cold. We found a significant increase of haemolymph K+ and decrease of haemolymph Na+ concentration over time. Next, barrier failure along the gut was tested by monitoring the movement of an epithelial barrier marker (FITC-dextran) across the gut epithelia during exposure to -2°C. We found a significant increase in haemolymph FITC-dextran concentration over time in the cold when assayed in the mucosal to serosal direction. However, when tested in the serosal to mucosal direction, we saw minimal marker movement across the gut epithelia. This suggests that while cold-induced barrier disruption is present, it is apparently unidirectional. It is important to note that these data reveal only the phenomenon itself. The location of this leak as well as the underlying mechanisms remain unclear and require further investigation.

Alimentary canal, Chill tolerance, Chilling injury, Dextran, Paracellular leak
The Journal of experimental biology
Department of Biology

Brzezinski, K. (Kaylen), & MacMillan, H.A. (2020). Chilling induces unidirectional solute leak through the locust gut epithelia. The Journal of experimental biology, 223. doi:10.1242/jeb.215475