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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Sep;34(9):937-49.

Differential gene expression between alate and dealate queens in the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, 2475 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2475, USA.


The transition of fire ant queens from alates to dealates, following a mating flight, is associated with numerous important physiological changes. A molecular analysis of gene expression differences that occur between alates and dealates was performed using the suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) method. 983 SSH clones were arrayed and screened by dot blot hybridization, followed by Northern blot analysis for selected clones. Gene expression profiles throughout fire ant development were determined using semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR). The cytochrome c oxidase subunit II and STARS (striated muscle activator of Rho signaling) transcripts were expressed at higher levels in dealates compared to alates and may be involved in the programmed cell death of the flight muscles. Three different vitellogenin genes and two unique yellow g-like genes were identified that may be closely associated with the reproductive system and/or nutrient transport. Two putative antibacterial peptides, abaecin and hymenoptaecin precursors, were highly expressed in dealate queens, suggesting that they are present as an immune system component during this important stage of fire ant development. The genes identified in this study may be utilized as novel targets for fire ant control and will also provide molecular markers for studies of other social insects.

Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.

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