The ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena pyriformis has been used to study the biochemistry of cellular injury induced by rapid cooling (cold shock). Cellular viability was found to depend on the time and temperature of cold exposure, and the rate of cooling. During cooling to −7.5 °C, in the absence of ice, an optimal rate of cooling of 2.5 °C min−1 was observed; at both faster and slower cooling the recovery decreased. Following acclimation at a reduced temprature (10 °C) the viability following rapid cooling was significantly different from that of cultures maintained at 20 °C. Analysis of the phospholipid fatty acids from cells grown at 10 °C demonstrated that, at the reduced temperature, there was an increase in the average degree of fatty acyl unsaturation. Cold-shock injury in Tetrahymena is associated with membrane thermotropic events which are determined by temperature per se, whereas viability is a function of the rate of cooling. A hypothesis of injury is presented in which the presence of gel-phase lipid within the membrane is not the critical event, but it is the pattern of nucleation within the membrane which ultimately determines the extent of cellular injury.
Authors: Morris, G.J., Coulson, G.E., Clarke, Andrew