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Fountain of Youth to be found in the anthill?
Date:11/20/2008

e structurally specialized. Carpenter ants, Camponotus floridanus, allow Liebig, Reinberg and Berger to examine what epigenetic factors or genes control longevity. Queens in this species are structurally specialized, growing large and also long-lived. Finally, using ants from the genus Pheidole, whose soldier caste development can be artificially induced, allows the researchers to closely examine (and potentially manipulate) what genes are expressed or repressed, and identify the factors regulating structural specialization and behavior.

The first task for the collaborative team will be to get the complete sequences of the genomes for these three ant species. Reinberg is currently identifying partners specialized to do this task. Then the group will examine the gene expression profiles of the different castes (worker, queen, soldier).

"This collaboration is fortuitous," says Liebig. "Danny and Shelley were looking for a model system to study epigenetic factors of differences in ant behavior and development. They contacted my colleague Bert Hlldobler, who knew I was looking for geneticists interested in differential gene expression in behavior, aging, and development in ants."

Hlldobler is the Pulitzer Prize winning coauthor of "The Ants," and leading expert in ant communication and social organization.

Liebig notes that the project is risky. For example, the complete sequence of the ant genome has never been achieved before.

"Often potential research partners are reluctant to cross barriers in scientific specialties and there is not funding for such risky ventures when there is interest to do them," Liebig says. "The beauty of this project is that the HHMI Collaborative Innovation Awards create the opportunity for us to blend our skills to develop a new approach and model system for the study of behavior and aging."

Arizona State University has become the world leader in the study of social insects, and study of
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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