John Duman Professor Emeritus

Environmental Physiology
John Duman

Research Interests:

Research concerns the physiological and biochemical adaptations to subzero temperatures of thermal conformers (those organisms with body temperatures that match the environment). Most studies are on insects, but other organisms (including plants, spiders and other terrestrial invertebrates) are also of interest. These organisms adapt to subzero winter temperatures by either becoming freeze tolerant (able to survive extracellular freezing) or freeze avoiding. Freeze avoiding species generally produce antifreezes, such as polyols (glycerol, etc) and/or antifreeze proteins (AFPs). We have been particularly concerned with the AFPs, and our studies have ranged from investigations of the function of the proteins, to hormonal and environmental cues controlling their production, to protein chemistry and molecular biology designed to determine their structure/antifreeze function relationships. Studies with freeze tolerant organisms have concentrated on ice nucleating proteins which function to induce ice formation in the extracellular fluid at high subzero temperature, and also on their AFPs. Antifreeze proteins function in certain freeze tolerant organisms not to prevent freezing, but as cryoprotectants to inhibit the damage resulting from freezing of body water. The mechanisms of this process are under investigation, but include recrystallization inhibition (control of ice crystal size) and inhibition of the generally lethal spread of extracellular ice into the cytoplasm. Recently, a new type of thermal hysteresis factor/antifreeze that is a glycolipid has been characterized. This antifreeze glycolipid has levels of antifreeze activity comparable to insect AFPs and is assocciated mainly with cell membrances where it may inhibit intracellular ice formation. Current research includes: (1) structure/function relationships of insect and plant antifreeze proteins and glycolipids; (2) cloning and expression of antifreeze protein genes; (3) cryoprotection mechanisms of antifreeze proteins and glycolipids in freeze tolerance; (4) applied studies on (a) the potential uses of antifreeze proteins and glycolipids in agriculture (i.e., transgenic plants which produce insect antifreeze proteins) and (b) the cryopreservation of biomedically important tissues and organs; and (5) studies of antifreeze proteins and related adaptations in Alaskan insects, including proteomic and other studies of how the beetle Cucujus clavipes deep supercools to -100 degrees C.



  • Gillen Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 1999-Present
  • Principal Research Scientist, Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 2005-Present
  • Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 1993-2002
  • Associate Dean, College of Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 1987-1993
  • Assistant Dean, College of Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 1982-1987
  • Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 1987-Present
  • Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 1980-1987
  • Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Notre Dame, IN 1974-1980
  • Ph.D., Marine Biology, Scripps' Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, CA 1974
  • B.S. Zoology, Pennsylvania State University, PA 1968


Recent Papers:

  • Vu, H. and Duman, J.G. (2017) Upper lethal temperatures in three cold tolerant insects are higher in the winter compared to summer. Experimental Biology 220: 2726 - 2732.
  • Olive, L.C., Meister, K., DeVries, A.L., Duman, J.G., Guo, S., Bakker, H.J., and Voets, I.K. (2016) Blocking rapid ice crystal growth through non-basal plane adsorption of antifreeze proteins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 113: 3740-3745.
  • Wen, X., Wang,S., Duman, J.G., Arafin, J.F., Juwita, V., Goddard, W.A., Rios, A., Liu, F., Kim, S-K., Abrol, R., DeVries, A.L., Henling, L.M. (2016) Antifreeze proteins govern the precipitation of trehalose in a freeze avoiding insect at low temperature. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 113: 6683-6688.
  • Baumer, A., Duman, J.G., and Havenith, M. (2016) Ice nucleation of an insect lipoprotein ice nucleator (LPIN) correlates with retardation of the hydrogen bond dynamics at the myo-inositol ring. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 18: 19318-19323.
  • Duman, J.G. (2015) Animal Ice-Binding (Antifreeze) Proteins and Glycolipids: An Overview with Emphasis on Physiological Function. Journal of Experimental Biology 218: 1846-1855.
  • Larson, D., Middle, L., Vu, H., Zhang, W., Serianni, A.S., Duman, J.G., Barnes, B.M. (2014) Wood frog adaptations to overwintering in Alaska: New limits to freezing tolerance. Journal of Experimental Biology 217: 2193-2200.
  • Duman, J.G. and Wisniewski, M.J. (2014) The Use of antifreeze proteins for frost protection in sensitive crop plants. Environmental and Experimental Botany 106: 60-69.
  • Nickell, P.K., Sass, S., Verleye, D., Blumenthall, E.M. and Duman, J.G. (2013) Antifreeze proteins in the primary urine of larvae of the beetle Dendroides canadensis (Latreille). Journal of Experimental Biology 216:1695-1703.
  • Meister, K., Ebbinghaus, Y., Xu, Y., Duman, J.G., DeVries, A.L., Gruebele, D.M., Leitner, D.M. and Havenith, M. (2013) Long-range protein-water dynamics in hyperactive insect antifreeze proteins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 110: 1617-1622.
  • Carrasco, M.A., Buechler, S., Arnold, R., Sformo, T., Barnes, B.M., Duman, J.G. (2012) Investigating the deep supercooling ability of an Alaskan beetle, Cucujus clavipes puniceus, via high throughput proteomics. Journal of Proteomics 75:1220-1234.