Applications of type I antifreeze proteins: Studies with model membranes and cryoprotectant properties

Steven R. Inglis, Jennifer J. Turner, Margaret M. Harding*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Antifreeze proteins (AFPs) and antifreeze glycoproteins (AFGPs), found in the body fluids of many species of polar fish allow them to survive in waters colder than the equilibrium freezing point of their blood and other internal fluids. Despite their structural diversity, all AF(G)Ps kinetically depress the temperature at which ice grows in a non-colligative manner and hence exhibit thermal hysteresis. AF(G)Ps also share the ability to interact with and protect mammalian cells and tissues from hypothermic damage (e.g., improved storage of human blood platelets at low temperatures), and are able to stabilize or disrupt membrane composition during low temperature and freezing stress (e.g., cryoprotectant properties in stabilization of sperm and oocytes). This review will summarize studies of AFPs with phospholipids and plant lipids, proposed mechanisms for inhibition of leakage from membranes, and cryoprotectant studies with biological samples. The major focus will be on the α-helical type I antifreeze proteins, and synthetic mutants, that have been most widely studied. For completeness, data on glycoproteins will also be presented. While a number of models to explain stabilization and destabilization of different lipid systems have been proposed, it is currently not possible to predict whether a particular AFP will stabilize or destabilize a given lipid system. Furthermore the relationship between the antifreeze property of thermal hysteresis and membrane stabilization is unknown. This lack of detailed knowledge about how AFPs function in the presence of different types of materials has hampered progress toward the development of antifreezes for cold storage of cells, tissues, and organs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-522
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Protein and Peptide Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


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