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Cell. 2017 Aug 10;170(4):748-759.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.014.

The Neuropeptide Corazonin Controls Social Behavior and Caste Identity in Ants.

Author information

1
Epigenetics Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
2
Epigenetics Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; Graduate Group in Genomics and Computational Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
3
Epigenetics Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
4
Department of Applied Ecology and Keck Center for Behavioral Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.
5
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Biochemistry, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.
6
Ecology and Evolution Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, 1919-1 Tancha, Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, Japan 904-0495; Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.
7
Department of Biology, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
8
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA.
9
Epigenetics Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Electronic address: rbon@mail.med.upenn.edu.

Abstract

Social insects are emerging models to study how gene regulation affects behavior because their colonies comprise individuals with the same genomes but greatly different behavioral repertoires. To investigate the molecular mechanisms that activate distinct behaviors in different castes, we exploit a natural behavioral plasticity in Harpegnathos saltator, where adult workers can transition to a reproductive, queen-like state called gamergate. Analysis of brain transcriptomes during the transition reveals that corazonin, a neuropeptide homologous to the vertebrate gonadotropin-releasing hormone, is downregulated as workers become gamergates. Corazonin is also preferentially expressed in workers and/or foragers from other social insect species. Injection of corazonin in transitioning Harpegnathos individuals suppresses expression of vitellogenin in the brain and stimulates worker-like hunting behaviors, while inhibiting gamergate behaviors, such as dueling and egg deposition. We propose that corazonin is a central regulator of caste identity and behavior in social insects.

KEYWORDS:

ants; brain; corazonin; epigenetics; foraging; gene regulation; neuropeptides; social behavior; transcriptomes; vitellogenin

PMID:
28802044
PMCID:
PMC5564227
DOI:
10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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