Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fast-Evolving Genes Control Developmental Differences in Social Insects

21.09.2011
Genes essential to producing the developmental differences displayed by social insects evolve more rapidly than genes governing other aspects of organismal function, a new study has found.

All species of life are able to develop in different ways by varying the genes they express, ultimately becoming different shapes, sizes, colors and sexes. This plasticity permits organisms to operate successfully in their environments. A new study of the genomes of social insects provides insight into the evolution of the genes involved in this developmental plasticity.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, showed that genes involved in creating different sexes, life stages and castes of fire ants and honeybees evolved more rapidly than genes not involved in these developmental processes. The researchers also found that these fast-evolving genes exhibited elevated rates of evolution even before they were recruited to produce diverse forms of an organism.

“This was a totally unexpected finding because most theory suggested that genes involved in producing diverse forms of an organism would evolve rapidly specifically because they generated developmental differences,” said Michael Goodisman, an associate professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. “Instead, this study suggests that fast-evolving genes are actually predisposed to generating new developmental forms.”

The results of the study will be published in the Sept. 20, 2011 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

The project was an international collaboration between Goodisman, associate professor Soojin Yi and postdoctoral fellow Brendan Hunt from the Georgia Tech School of Biology, and professor Laurent Keller, research scientist DeWayne Shoemaker, and postdoctoral fellows Lino Ometto and Yannick Wurm from the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne.

Social insects exhibit a sophisticated social structure in which queens reproduce and workers engage in tasks related to brood-rearing and colony defense. By investigating the evolution of genes associated with castes, sexes and developmental stages of the invasive fire ant Solenopsis invicta, the researchers explored how social insects produce such a diversity of form and function from genetically similar individuals.

“Social insects provided the perfect test subjects because they can develop into such dramatically different forms,” said Goodisman.

Microarray analyses revealed that many fire ant genes were regulated differently depending on whether the fire ant was male or female, queen or worker, and pupal or adult. These differentially expressed genes exhibited elevated rates of evolution, as predicted. In addition, genes that were differentially expressed in multiple contexts -- castes, sexes or developmental stages -- tended to evolve more rapidly than genes that were differentially expressed in only a single context.

To examine when the genes with elevated rates of evolution began to evolve rapidly, the researchers compared the rate of evolution of genes associated with the production of castes in the fire ant with the same genes in a wasp that does not have a caste system. They found that the genes were rapidly evolving in the genomes of both species, even though only one produced a caste system. These results were also replicated for the honeybee Apis mellifera.

“This is one the most comprehensive studies of the evolution of genes involved in producing developmental differences,” Goodisman noted.

This study helps explain the fundamental evolutionary processes that allow organisms to develop different adaptive forms. Future research will include determining what these fast-evolving genes do and how they’re involved in the production of different sexes, life stages and castes, said Goodisman.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (Award No. DEB-0640690). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF.

Research News & Publications Office
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA
Media Relations Contacts: Abby Robinson (abby@innovate.gatech.edu; 404-385-3364) or John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu; 404-894-6986)

Writer: Abby Robinson

Abby Robinson | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>