Navigation Links
Seeking social genes
Date:2/1/2011

In order understand the evolution of complex societies, researchers are sequencing the genomes of social insects. The most recent data, published this week in the Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from several species of ants, including the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus.

A team, lead by Arizona State University organismal and systems biology professor Juergen Gadau, sequenced one of the genomes and set out to decipher which genes might be responsible for defining which ants work and which ants reproduce in a red harvester ant colony.

Division of labor and reproduction are two crucial characteristics scientists think are important to the evolution of social structure. "Having multiple independently evolved social genomes helps us to better understand which genes are involved in crucial social traits, because those should be highly conserved," Gadau said.

In addition to specialization of roles within a colony, researchers argue that development of methods to communicate information is another key aspect of eusociality, the extreme form of social behavior exhibited by certain bees, termites and ants.

This study was funded by the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, part of the National Science Foundation's Biology Directorate. The Developmental Systems Cluster within the division supports research aimed at understanding how interacting developmental processes give rise to the emergent properties of organisms.

Results from Gadau's study reveal that, compared to other insects, the red harvester ant genome has significantly more genes associated with the sense of smell, as well as detection and metabolism of chemical signals. This is consistent with the fact that ants use chemical signals to communicate.

Another difference appears in the genes of the ant's immune system. Previously, scientists hypothesized that ants may have evolved novel immune responses or specialized behaviors to avoid disease outbreaks within their dense populations. These results indicate the former may be a distinct possibility, however future comparisons with other insect genomes should yield more insight into the significance of the differences observed in this study.

"The diversity in social structure between the different ants sequenced will allow us to search for the genetic basis and the architecture underlying the observed social diversity in ants," Gadau explained. "A comparison with bees, a completely independent evolutionary lineage, will give us an opportunity to test whether there are multiple ways how a genome can become a sociogenome."

Finally, the team observed evidence of epigenetic differences--or changes in appearance that can be inherited--in genes related to division of labor and reproduction. In this case, the genes responsible for development of wings and ovaries, role-specific traits in a red harvester and colony, appear to show some differences.

According to the researchers, the finding implies that, although the genes themselves are present in both worker and queen ants, when and where the genes are expressed is highly regulated and heritable from one generation to the next.

"Everything we can learn about epigenetic modifications will probably have major implications for human health since these mechanisms are thought to be critical in the development of complex diseases of humans, such as mental illnesses and diabetes," said Gadau.


'/>"/>

Contact: Lisa Van Pay
lvanpay@nsf.gov
703-292-8796
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Thrill-seeking holiday-makers are putting dolphins at risk
2. Thrill-seeking holidaymakers are putting dolphins at risk
3. Parents social problems affect their children -- even in birds
4. Social stress leads to atherosclerosis
5. Psychologists identify influence of social interaction on sensitivity to physical pain
6. Family ties bind desert lizards in social groups
7. Social support post-cancer lacking among minority women
8. Social ecology: Lost and found in psychological science
9. Engineering textbook promotes social justice
10. Social context may be a better indicator of obesity disparities than race
11. Communication trumps penalties in new study of social-ecological systems
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/3/2016)... May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a provider of ... MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) , a ... projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple complex biometric ... combination of fingerprint, face or iris biometrics. It ... and MegaMatcher Accelerator , which have ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... and BANGALORE, India , April 28, 2016 ... a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), ... a global partnership that will provide end customers ... mobile banking and payment services.      (Logo: ... innovation area for financial services, but it also plays a ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted to ... of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share rose ... was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to exceed ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... May 04, 2016 , ... Nutrafol®, a ... help treat hormonal and stress related hair loss. With patent-pending formulas for both ... key opinion leaders in the medical and salon channels nationwide. , Dermatologists, ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... , May 3, 2016 ... (Genomics, Drug Discovery, Gene Expression) Lab-on-a-chip (IVD ... (Academics Institutes, Diagnostics Centers), Fabrication Technology (Microarrays, ... MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to reach ... 7.63 Billion in 2015, growing at a ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... ... 03, 2016 , ... Morf Media Inc ., developer ... on mobile devices, today released a new interactive Food and Drug Administration ... course is essential for owners or operators of places of business that are ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... Boston, MA (PRWEB) , ... May 03, 2016 , ... ... ranked number 25 out of the state’s 76 fastest-growing private companies; a small percentage ... of Massachusetts, and ranked organizations on the percent change in revenue from 2012 to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: