Protein Antifreeze

John K Clark (
Sat, 13 Sep 1997 21:27:52 -0700 (PDT)


In the August 21 1997 issue of Nature there is an article by Virginia K Walker
and Peter L Davies about proteins found in insects that act as natural
antifreeze. Protein antifreeze has been found before, in fish, but the one
discovered in the budworm is 30 times as potent, and you'd need 100 times as
much fish antifreeze to work as well as the one found in the mealworm.
Both these new proteins are similar in that they have lots of repetitions of
water loving amino acids like serine, threonine, cysteine and glycine.
It's suspected that their structure is similar to that of water molecules in
ice so the two fit together, at lest that's what the fish protein does,
but the 3 dimensional shape of any of the insect ones has not been found yet
so maybe they work some other way.

Unfortunately they only lower the freezing point of water by 5.5 degrees
centigrade and that's not enough to preserve things for more than a month or
two, but there may be other advantages. When things get really cold and ice
does form it's as smooth hexagonal disks, not dangerous sharp edges and
pointy spikes which is what you get without any antifreeze or even if you
use the one from fish.

I wonder if this be of use in Cryonics. So far only very small amounts have
been produced, but if anybody thought it was worth the bother I'm sure the
gene that codes for the protein could be found and spliced into a bacteria or
yeast and you could crank it out by the ton. Just a thought.

John K Clark

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