From the available experimental data a relatively clear picture can be established with regard to the physiological importance of some of the mechanisms involved in insect cold hardening. In freeze-avoiding insects, all potent ice-nucleating agents are removed or inactivated, leading to a depression of the supercooling points to about 20 degrees C. Accumulation of polyols causes a further depression with a magnitude of about twice the corresponding melting-point depression. Production of thermal hysteresis factors causes a stabilization of the supercooled state. In freeze-tolerant insects, potent ice-nucleating agents are produced in the extracellular body fluid, ensuring a protective extracellular freezing at a few degrees below zero. Accumulation of polyols causes a steep drop in the lethal temperature, due to a reduction of the amount of ice by a colligative mechanism. However, there is still much to be learned about the mechanisms by which ice-nucleating agents, polyols, and thermal hysteresis agents are acting. Furthermore, the regulatory mechanisms involved in the production and elimination of these components from the body fluid of the insects are not understood. Also, when it comes to the influence of environmental factors, like photoperiod and temperature, there is much to be learned. In addition to giving attention to these topics, future research should be focused on the possible role of other factors in cold hardening such as bound water, dehydration, low-molecular-weight solutes other than polyols, and the biochemical mechanisms forming the basis of the seasonal changes in the cold hardiness of insects.
- Copyright © 1985 the American Physiological Society