A regulator gene for extreme desiccation tolerance identified

Updated:March 14, 2018 (Wednesday)

Towards the development of a method for drying and preserving cells and tissues at room temperature

The research group of Dr. Takahiro Kikawada and Dr. Richard Cornette of the Molecular Biomimetics Research Unit, Division of Biotechnology of the Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS), in collaboration with the research group of Dr. Oleg Gusev from the RIKEN Innovation Center have discovered that a heat shock transcription factor gene (Hsf1) can control extreme desiccation tolerance in the sleeping chironomid (Polypedilum vanderplanki), a mosquito-like insect found in semi-arid areas of Africa and known for its desiccation tolerance (anhydrobiosis).

In this study, the genome of the desiccation-tolerant Polypedilum vanderplanki was compared with a closely related species, Polypedilum nubifer, which is not capable of surviving desiccation. Hundreds of genes, including genes known to be involved in forming a "molecular shield" against damage due to dehydration, were identified in the Polypedilum vanderplanki, and were already expressed during the initial stages of desiccation. It was also discovered that a certain DNA motif, TCTAGAA, which is the binding site for HSF, was strongly enriched around the transcription start site of the genes activated by desiccation in Polypedilum vanderplanki, but not in the other species.

These findings may lead to the identification of new desiccation tolerance factors and the development of a new method for drying and preserving cells and tissues at room temperature in the future.


Pavel V. Mazin, Elena Shagimardanova, Olga Kozlova, Alexander Cherkasov, Roman Sutormin, Vita V. Stepanova, Aleksey Stupnikov, Maria Logacheva, Aleksey Penin, Yoichiro Sogame, Richard Cornette, Shoko Tokumoto, Yugo Miyata, Takahiro Kikawada, Mikhail S. Gelfand, and Oleg Gusev. 2018. Cooption of heat shock regulatory system for anhydrobiosis in the sleeping chironomid Polypedilum vanderplanki. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), doi: 10.1073/pnas.1719493115