Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Researchers discover new genes that protects water bears when they dry out

Water bears, aka tardigrades, are resilient little creatures. These microscopic animals can survive both freezing and boiling temperatures, radiation, high pressure, starvation, the vacuum of space and even desiccation. This last ability caught the attention of a team of researchers interested in how they are able to survive for years despite being completely dried out, an ability known as anhydrobiosis.

Video by Daiki D. Horikawa, via YouTube.

The team discovered special genes that make proteins to protect the animal’s cells during anhydrobiosis. The proteins created by these genes are called tardigrade-specific intrinsically disordered proteins, or TDPs for short. If these TDP genes are altered, the animals lose the ability to tolerate dessication. These proteins work by creating a matrix that wraps around their cellular molecules. Doing this also slows down their metabolism. Upon rehydration, the proteins melt again and the cells are free to function normally.

Source:

TC Boothby, H Tapia, AH Brozena, S Piszkiewicz, AE Smith, I Giovannini, L Rebecchi, GJ Pielak, D Koshland, B Goldstein. Tardigrades Use Intrinsically Disordered Proteins to Survive Desiccation. Molecular Cell. 65(6): p975–984.e5, 16 March 2017.

Categories: Comparative Physiology

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s