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J Chem Ecol. 2005 Feb;31(2):431-7.

Quantification of invertase activity in ants under field conditions.

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  • 1Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Max-Planck-Institutefor Chemical Ecology Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, D-07745 Jena, Germany.


Invertases (EC are hydrolases that cleave sucrose into the monosacccharides, glucose, and fructose. They play a central role in carbohydrate metabolism of plants and animals. Methods presented so far to quantify invertase activity in ants or other animals have been hampered by the variability in both substrates and products of the enzymatic reaction in animals whose carbohydrate metabolism is highly active. Our method is based on a spectrophotometric quantification of the kinetics of glucose release. We first obtained an equilibrium state summarizing reactions of any carbohydrates and enzymes that are present in the extract. Sucrose was then added to quantify invertase activity as newly released glucose. Invertase activities differed significantly among species of ants. Variances were lowest among individuals from the same colony and highest among different species. When preparations were made from ants of the same species, invertase activity was linearly related to the number of ants used for extraction. Our method does not require ants to be kept on specific substrates prior to the experiment, or expensive or large equipment. It, thus, appears suitable for dealing with a broad range of physiological, ecological, and evolutionary questions.

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