Tardigrades use unique protein to protect themselves from desiccation
Tardigrades use unique protein to protect themselves from desiccation.
"In addition, the proteins that these genes encode can be used to protect other biological material — like bacteria, yeast, and certain enzymes — from desiccation."
But biochemical studies of tardigrades have found trehelose at low levels or not at all, and sequencing has not revealed the gene for the enzyme required to make this sugar.
The researchers identified genes that were upregulated and expressed at high levels when the animals began to dry out.
The proteins that these genes encode, the TDPs, are in a class of proteins called intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs).
After they found the TDP genes expressed at high levels during the drying-out period in one species of tardigrade, the team looked at two other species and found the same genes.
"We think it can do this because it has so many of these proteins around already and doesn’t need time to make them," Boothby says.
To verify that these TDPs were what gave tardigrades their unique abilities, the researchers put the genes encoding them into yeast and bacteria, and confirmed that the TDPs protected these other organisms.
Trehelose helps other organisms to survive drying out by forming glass-like solids when they dry, rather than crystals.
These real-world applications are one of the things that led me to study tardigrades."