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Not just cars, but living organisms need antifreeze to survive
Date:2/19/2013

Jerusalem, February 17, 2013 If you thought antifreeze was only something that was necessary to keep your car from freezing up in the winter, think again. Plants and animals living in cold climates have natural antifreeze proteins (AFPs) which prevent ice growth and crystallization of organic fluid matter. Without such antifreeze, living matter would suffer from frost damage and even death.

Production of such antifreeze proteins is one of the major evolutionary routes taken by a variety of organisms, including fish, insects, bacteria, plants and fungi. Understanding how this mechanism works is not only significant in itself, but also has important implications for improving the world's food and medicinal production, believe researchers from Israel, Canada and the US who investigated how the process works.

Working on unraveling the AFP enigma were scientists from the lab of Dr. Ido Braslavsky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from Ohio University in the US, in collaboration with Prof. Peter L. Davies from Queens University (Ontario, Canada) and Prof. Alex Groisman from the University of California (San Diego, CA).

Despite half a century of research, the mechanism underlying the activity of the natural antifreeze proteins is still unclear. One of the debates in the academic community regards the chemistry and physics behind the interactions of antifreeze proteins and ice. In particular, there is an ongoing argument over whether the binding of the proteins to ice is reversible and whether continued presence of these proteins in solution is necessary for prevention of ice growth.

The challenge in unraveling these questions stems from a variety of technical problems associated with the growth and tracking of tiny ice crystals in an environment that mimics the surroundings of the antifreeze proteins in nature.

The Hebrew University researchers studied the antifreeze protein of the yellow mealworm. This pro
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Contact: Jerry Barach
jerryb@savion.huji.ac.il
972-258-82904
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Source:Eurekalert  

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Not just cars, but living organisms need antifreeze to survive
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