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Cell. 2017 Aug 10;170(4):736-747.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.051.

An Engineered orco Mutation Produces Aberrant Social Behavior and Defective Neural Development in Ants.

Author information

1
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.
2
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.
3
Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.
4
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.
5
Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA.
6
Laboratory of Social Evolution and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.
7
Penn Epigenetics Institute, Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology, Genetics, and Biology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
8
Penn Epigenetics Institute, Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology, Genetics, and Biology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Electronic address: bergers@mail.med.upenn.edu.
9
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA. Electronic address: juergen.liebig@asu.edu.
10
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA. Electronic address: danny.reinberg@nyumc.org.
11
Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA. Electronic address: cd38@nyu.edu.

Abstract

Ants exhibit cooperative behaviors and advanced forms of sociality that depend on pheromone-mediated communication. Odorant receptor neurons (ORNs) express specific odorant receptors (ORs) encoded by a dramatically expanded gene family in ants. In most eusocial insects, only the queen can transmit genetic information, restricting genetic studies. In contrast, workers in Harpegnathos saltator ants can be converted into gamergates (pseudoqueens) that can found entire colonies. This feature facilitated CRISPR-Cas9 generation of germline mutations in orco, the gene that encodes the obligate co-receptor of all ORs. orco mutations should significantly impact olfaction. We demonstrate striking functions of Orco in odorant perception, reproductive physiology, and social behavior plasticity. Surprisingly, unlike in other insects, loss of OR functionality also dramatically impairs development of the antennal lobe to which ORNs project. Therefore, the development of genetics in Harpegnathos establishes this ant species as a model organism to study the complexity of eusociality.

KEYWORDS:

CRISPR; Harpegnathos saltator; Orco; ant; eusocial insect; glomerulus; neural development; odorant receptor; odorant receptor neurons; pheromone; reproduction; social behavior

PMID:
28802043
PMCID:
PMC5587193
DOI:
10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.051
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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