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The midge Belgica antarctica is the only insect endemic to Antarctica and has the southernmost range of any insect. In its natural environment, B. antarctica frequently faces desiccating conditions, as environmental water is frozen for up to 9 months annually. The molecular mechanisms by which B. antarctica tolerates extreme dehydration are poorly understood, but recent work from our laboratory reports genome-wide expression changes in response to extreme dehydration (~40% water loss), the first genome-scale transcriptome reported for an Antarctic animal. Among transcripts differentially regulated during dehydration, there is coordinated upregulation of numerous genes involved in autophagy, including genes responsible for autophagosome synthesis and autophagy-associated transcription factors. Also, several genes and pathways that interact with and regulate autophagy, e.g., sestrins and proteasomal genes, are concurrently upregulated. This suggests that autophagy and related processes are key elements regulating stress tolerance in this extreme environment.


Nicholas M Teets, David L Denlinger. Autophagy in Antarctica: combating dehydration stress in the world's southernmost insect. Autophagy. 2013 Apr;9(4):629-31

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PMID: 23380735

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