Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 21–41

Freeze/thaw-induced destabilization of the plasma membrane and the effects of cold acclimation

  • Peter L. Steponkus
  • Daniel V. Lynch

DOI: 10.1007/BF00762210

Cite this article as:
Steponkus, P.L. & Lynch, D.V. J Bioenerg Biomembr (1989) 21: 21. doi:10.1007/BF00762210


Disruption of the plasma membrane is a primary cause of freezing injury. In this review, the mechanisms of injury resulting from freeze-induced cell dehydration are presented, including destabilization of the plasma membrane resulting from (a) freeze/thaw-induced osmotic excursions and (b) lyotropic phase transitions in the plasma membrane lipids. Cold acclimation dramatically alters the behavior of the plasma membrane during a freeze/thaw cycle—increasing the tolerance to osmotic excursions and decreasing the propensity for dehydration-induced lamellar to hexagonal-II phase transitions. Evidence for a casual relationship between the increased cryostability of the plasma membrane and alterations in the lipid composition is reviewed.

Key Words

Plasma membranefreezing injurycold acclimationlipidsmesomorphic phase behaviordehydrationliposomesisolated protoplasts

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter L. Steponkus
    • 1
  • Daniel V. Lynch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AgronomyCornell UniversityIthaca