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© 2016 the American Physiological Society. Life cycle delays are beneficial for opportunistic species encountering suboptimal environments. Many animals display a programmed arrest of development (diapause) at some stage(s) of their development, and the diapause state may or may not be associated with some degree of metabolic depression. In this review, we will evaluate current advancements in our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the remarkable phenotype, as well as environmental cues that signal entry and termination of the state. The developmental stage at which diapause occurs dictates and constrains the mechanisms governing diapause. Considerable progress has been made in clarifying proximal mechanisms of metabolic arrest and the signaling pathways like insulin/Foxo that control gene expression patterns. Overlapping themes are also seen in mechanisms that control cell cycle arrest. Evidence is emerging for epigenetic contributions to diapause regulation via small RNAs in nematodes, crustaceans, insects, and fish. Knockdown of circadian clock genes in selected insect species supports the importance of clock genes in the photoperiodic response that cues diapause. A large suite of chaperone-like proteins, expressed during diapause, protects biological structures during long periods of energy-limited stasis. More information is needed to paint a complete picture of how environmental cues are coupled to the signal transduction that initiates the complex diapause phenotype, as well as molecular explanations for how the state is terminated. Excellent examples of molecular memory in postdauer animals have been documented in Caenorhabditis elegans. It is clear that a single suite of mechanisms does not regulate diapause across all species and developmental stages.

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American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology

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