Most insects can acclimate to changes in their thermal environment and counteract temperature effects on neuromuscular function. At the critical thermal minimum, a spreading depolarization (SD) event silences central neurons, but the temperature at which this event occurs can be altered through acclimation. SD is triggered by an inability to maintain ion homeostasis in the extracellular space in the brain and is characterized by a rapid surge in extracellular K+ concentration, implicating ion pump and channel function. Here, we focused on the role of the Na+/K+-ATPase specifically in lowering the SD temperature in cold-acclimated Drosophila melanogaster. After first confirming cold acclimation altered SD onset, we investigated the dependency of the SD event on Na+/K+-ATPase activity by injecting the inhibitor ouabain into the head of the flies to induce SD over a range of temperatures. Latency to SD followed the pattern of a thermal performance curve, but cold acclimation resulted in a left-shift of the curve to an extent similar to its effect on the SD temperature. With Na+/K+-ATPase activity assays and immunoblots, we found that cold-acclimated flies have ion pumps that are less sensitive to temperature, but do not differ in their overall abundance in the brain. Combined, these findings suggest a key role for plasticity in Na+/K+-ATPase thermal sensitivity in maintaining central nervous system function in the cold, and more broadly highlight that a single ion pump can be an important determinant of whether insects can respond to their environment to remain active at low temperatures.

You do not currently have access to this content.