Article: article from journal or magazin.
Interplay between insulin signaling, juvenile hormone, and vitellogenin regulates maternal effects on polyphenism in ants.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Polyphenism is the phenomenon in which alternative phenotypes are produced by a single genotype in response to environmental cues. An extreme case is found in social insects, in which reproductive queens and sterile workers that greatly differ in morphology and behavior can arise from a single genotype. Experimental evidence for maternal effects on caste determination, the differential larval development toward the queen or worker caste, was recently documented in Pogonomyrmex seed harvester ants, in which only colonies with a hibernated queen produce new queens. However, the proximate mechanisms behind these intergenerational effects have remained elusive. We used a combination of artificial hibernation, hormonal treatments, gene expression analyses, hormone measurements, and vitellogenin quantification to investigate how the combined effect of environmental cues and hormonal signaling affects the process of caste determination in Pogonomyrmex rugosus. The results show that the interplay between insulin signaling, juvenile hormone, and vitellogenin regulates maternal effects on the production of alternative phenotypes and set vitellogenin as a likely key player in the intergenerational transmission of information. This study reveals how hibernation triggers the production of new queens in Pogonomyrmex ant colonies. More generally, it provides important information on maternal effects by showing how environmental cues experienced by one generation can translate into phenotypic variation in the next generation.
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