Bumble bees are common in cooler climates and many species likely experience periodic exposure to very cold temperatures, but little is known about the temporal dynamics of cold response mechanisms following chill exposure, especially how persistent effects of cold exposure may facilitate tolerance of future events. To investigate molecular processes involved in the temporal response by bumble bees to acute cold exposure, we compared mRNA transcript abundance in Bombus impatiens workers exposed to 0°C for 75 min (inducing chill coma) and control bees maintained at a constant ambient temperature (28°C). We sequenced the 3′ end of mRNA transcripts (TagSeq) to quantify gene expression in thoracic tissue of bees at several time points (0, 10, 30, 120 and 720 min) following cold exposure. Significant differences from control bees were only detectable within 30 min after the treatment, with most occurring at the 10 min recovery time point. Genes associated with gluconeogenesis and glycolysis were most notably upregulated, while genes related to lipid and purine metabolism were downregulated. The observed patterns of expression indicate a rapid recovery after chill coma, suggesting an acute differential transcriptional response during recovery from chill coma and return to baseline expression levels within an hour, with no long-term gene expression markers of this cold exposure. Our work highlights the functions and pathways important for acute cold recovery, provides an estimated time frame for recovery from cold exposure in bumble bees, and suggests that cold hardening may be less important for these heterothermic insects.

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