, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 21-41

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

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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.