Open Access Research article

Surviving extreme polar winters by desiccation: clues from Arctic springtail (Onychiurus arcticus) EST libraries

Melody S Clark1*, Michael AS Thorne1, Jelena Purać12, Gordana Grubor-Lajšić2, Michael Kube3, Richard Reinhardt3 and M Roger Worland1

Author affiliations

1 British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK

2 University of Novi-Sad, Faculty of Sciences, Trg Dositeja Obradovića 3, 21000 Novi Sad, Republic of Serbia

3 Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Genetik (MPI), Ihnestraße 63/73, 14195 Berlin, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2007, 8:475  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-475

Published: 21 December 2007



Ice, snow and temperatures of -14°C are conditions which most animals would find difficult, if not impossible, to survive in. However this exactly describes the Arctic winter, and the Arctic springtail Onychiurus arcticus regularly survives these extreme conditions and re-emerges in the spring. It is able to do this by reducing the amount of water in its body to almost zero: a process that is called "protective dehydration". The aim of this project was to generate clones and sequence data in the form of ESTs to provide a platform for the future molecular characterisation of the processes involved in protective dehydration.


Five normalised libraries were produced from both desiccating and rehydrating populations of O. arcticus from stages that had previously been defined as potentially informative for molecular analyses. A total of 16,379 EST clones were generated and analysed using Blast and GO annotation. 40% of the clones produced significant matches against the Swissprot and trembl databases and these were further analysed using GO annotation. Extraction and analysis of GO annotations proved an extremely effective method for identifying generic processes associated with biochemical pathways, proving more efficient than solely analysing Blast data output. A number of genes were identified, which have previously been shown to be involved in water transport and desiccation such as members of the aquaporin family. Identification of these clones in specific libraries associated with desiccation validates the computational analysis by library rather than producing a global overview of all libraries combined.


This paper describes for the first time EST data from the arctic springtail (O. arcticus). This significantly enhances the number of Collembolan ESTs in the public databases, providing useful comparative data within this phylum. The use of GO annotation for analysis has facilitated the identification of a wide variety of ESTs associated with a number of different biochemical pathways involved in the dehydration and recovery process in O. arcticus.