Tolerance to desiccation stress in Chironomus ramosus through plasticity in homeostatic control

  • Leena Thorat Department of Zoology, Savitribai Phule Pune University
  • Bimalendu B. Nath Department of Zoology, Savitribai Phule Pune University


Desiccating environments pose physiological challenges to organisms, especially those experiencing them on recurring basis. Several desiccation-tolerant organisms are known to withstand loss of body water in response to seasonal dehydration patterns through adaptations that facilitate their sustenance in the dry state followed by recovery upon return of favourable hydrating conditions. In the present study, we have chosen Chironomus ramosus, an aquatic midge species as a laboratory model system towards the exploration of its desiccation tolerance ability. We confirm that upon desiccation exposure at low relative humidity, larvae of C. ramosus exhibited rapid water loss and could revive upon rehydration. Moreover, the revived individuals underwent successful metamorphosis; albeit delayed. This heterochrony in the developmental calendar was experimentally verified by the investigation of ecdysone levels which suggested an altered pattern of ecdysis in response to the stress. These data suggested the organism’s plasticity in developmental homeostasis when confronted with dehydration stress. Furthermore, spectrofluorometric assays indicated the occurrence of thiol damage in the larvae. Investigation of Hsp70, the evolutionarily conserved stress responsive gene suggested that Hsp70 was indeed up-regulated during the rehydration period, thus facilitating recovery of the larvae from dehydration. In summary, several lines of evidence involving cellular, physiological and developmental adaptations revealed the ability of C. ramosus larvae to minimize the diverse categories of damage caused by desiccation stress through plasticity in their homeostatic mechanism.