Thermophiles, heat-loving organisms, have been a popular topic of research for decades due in large part to the utility of their enzymes in various chemical reactions (Taq Pol single-enzymedly made PCR practical). One of the signatures of thermophiles is that their proteins resist heat denaturation up to much higher temperatures than their mesophilic (middle-loving) homologs.

Is there a corresponding group of extremophiles whose proteins resist cold denaturation down to much lower temperature than their mesophilic homologs? If so, could someone please point me towards a few good literature reviews on the topic? Or at least give me the proper name for this group of cold-loving extremophiles?

  • $\begingroup$ there are organisms that survive in cold temperatures - like arctic plankton and fish...don't know their names, but their adaptations tend to be the production of antifreeze proteins. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Apr 23, 2012 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


The term you are looking for is psychrophile or cryophile. There are examples of microbes adapted to very cold conditions in Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya. There are also fairly complex animals capable of surviving very low temperatures - Tardigrades, for example. There are multiple issues that organisms face in withstanding extremely low temperatures - protein denaturation, membrane fluidity, intracellular ice-formation, just to name a few.

There is this review that might be useful to you.

  • D'Amico, S., Collins, T., Marx, J.-C., Feller, G., Gerday, C. Psychrophilic microorganisms: Challenges for life (2006) EMBO Reports, 7 (4), pp. 385-389. link
  • $\begingroup$ You beat me by 20 seconds! I shall defer to you. $\endgroup$
    – bobthejoe
    Apr 23, 2012 at 19:39

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