De novo transcriptome analysis reveals potential thermal adaptation mechanisms in the cicada hyalessa fuscata

Hoa Quynh Nguyen, Yuseob Kim, Yikweon Jang

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In metropolitan Seoul, populations of the cicada Hyalessa fuscata in hotter urban heat islands (“high UHIs”) exhibit higher thermal tolerance than those in cooler UHIs (“low UHIs”). We hypothesized that heat stress may activate the expression of genes that facilitate greater thermal tolerance in high‐UHI cicadas than in those from cooler areas. Differences in the transcriptomes of adult female cicadas from high‐UHI, low‐UHI, and suburban areas were analyzed at the unheated level, after acute heat stress, and after heat torpor. No noticeable differences in unheated gene expression patterns were observed. After 10 min of acute heat stress, however, low‐UHI and suburban cicadas expressed more heat shock protein genes than high‐UHI counterparts. More specifically, remarkable changes in the gene expression of cicadas across areas were observed after heat torpor stimulus, as represented by a large number of up‐ and downregulated genes in the heat torpor groups compared with the 10 min acute heat stress and control groups. High‐UHI cicadas expressed the most differentially expressed genes, followed by the low‐UHI and suburban cicadas. There was a notable increase in the expression of heat shock, metabolism, and detoxification genes; meanwhile, immune‐related, signal transduction, and protein turnover genes were downregulated in high‐UHI cicadas versus the other cicada groups. These results suggested that under heat stress, cicadas inhabiting high‐UHIs could rapidly express genes related to heat shock, energy metabolism, and detoxification to protect cells from stress‐induced damage and to increase their thermal tolerance toward heat stress. The downregulation of apoptosis mechanisms in high‐UHI cicadas suggested that there was less cellular damage, which likely contributed to their high tolerance of heat stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2785
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (grant number: 2015R1A4A1041997).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


  • Antioxidants
  • Energy metabolism
  • Heat shock proteins
  • Hyalessa fuscata
  • Thermal tolerance
  • Transcriptomes


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