In many social hymenopteran species, workers possess functional ovaries that are physiologically inactive in the presence of queens. We investigated the ovarian regulatory mechanism of workers and reproductives in a queenless ponerine ant, Diacamma sp., using histological and molecular techniques. In this ant, clear reproductive differentiation occurs via a highly sophisticated dominance behavioral interaction called “gemmae mutilation”. This clear and rapid bifurcation of reproductive physiology allows us to elucidate the detailed ovarian differentiation process. Histological characteristics of functional ovaries (fusomes and ring canals) were found in both workers and reproductives, suggesting that early oogenesis is not blocked in workers. Since insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS) is known to control insect reproduction, orthologs of 2 positive IIS regulators, insulin receptor and serine-threonine kinase Akt (protein kinase B), were cloned in Diacamma (DiaInR, DiaAkt); their expression patterns during reproductive differentiation were examined by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction; DiaInR and DiaAkt were strongly expressed in the gasters of reproductives. Whole-mount in situ hybridization of ovaries indicated that DiaInR and DiaAkt were expressed in nurse cells, oocytes, and upper germarial regions of reproductives but not of workers. Our data suggest that the IIS pathway accounts for reproductive differentiation in late oogenesis.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.