The terrestrial anuran Rana sylvatica tolerates extended periods of whole-body freezing during the winter. Freezing survival is facilitated by extensive glycogen hydrolysis and distribution of high concentrations of the cryoprotectant glucose into blood and all tissues. As glycogenesis is both an energy-expensive process and counter-productive to maintaining sustained high cryoprotectant levels, we proposed that glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) would be activated when wood frogs froze and would phosphorylate its downstream substrates to inactivate glycogen synthesis. Western blot analysis determined that the amount of phosphorylated (inactive) GSK-3 decreased in all five tissues tested in 24?h frozen frogs compared with unfrozen controls. Total GSK-3 protein levels did not change, with the exception of heart GSK-3, indicating that post-translational modification was the primary regulatory mechanism for this kinase. Kinetic properties of skeletal muscle GSK-3 from control and frozen frogs displayed differential responses to a temperature change (22 versus 4°C) and high glucose. For example, when assayed at 4°C, the K m for the GSK-3 substrate peptide was ~44% lower for frozen frogs than the corresponding value in control frogs, indicating greater GSK-3 affinity for its substrates in the frozen state. This indicates that at temperatures similar to the environment encountered by frogs, GSK-3 in frozen frogs will phosphorylate its downstream targets more readily than in unfrozen controls. GSK-3 from skeletal muscle of control frogs was also allosterically regulated. AMP and phosphoenolpyruvate activated GSK-3 whereas inhibitors included glucose, glucose 6-phosphate, pyruvate, ATP, glutamate, glutamine, glycerol, NH 4Cl, NaCl and KCl. The combination of phosphorylation and allosteric control argues for a regulatory role of GSK-3 in inactivating glycogenesis to preserve high glucose cryoprotectant levels throughout each freezing bout.

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Keywords Cryoprotectant, Freeze tolerance, Glucose, Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), Protein phosphorylation, Rana sylvatica
Persistent URL
Journal Journal of Experimental Biology
Dieni, C.A. (Christopher A.), Bouffard, M.C. (Melanie C.), & Storey, K. (2012). Glycogen synthase kinase-3: Cryoprotection and glycogen metabolism in the freezetolerant wood frog. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(3), 543–551. doi:10.1242/jeb.065961