Termite societies are characterized by a highly organized division of labor among conspicuous castes, groups of individuals with various morphological specializations. Termite caste differentiation is under control of juvenile hormone (JH), but the molecular mechanism underlying the response to JH and early events triggering caste differentiation are still poorly understood. In order to profile candidate gene expression during early soldier caste differentiation of the damp-wood termite, Hodotermopsis sjostedti, we treated pseudergates (workers) with a juvenile hormone analog (JHA) to induce soldier caste differentiation. We then used Suppressive Subtractive Hybridization to create two cDNA libraries enriched for transcripts that were either up- or downregulated at 24h after treatment. Finally, we used quantitative PCR to confirm temporal expression patterns. Hexamerins represent a large proportion of the genes upregulated following JHA treatment and have an expression pattern that shows roughly an inverse correlation to intrinsic JH titers. This data is consistent with the role of a JH “sink”, which was demonstrated for hexamerins in another termite, Reticulitermes flavipes. A putative nuclear protein was also upregulated a few hours after JHA treatment, which suggests a role in the early response to JH and subsequent regulation of transcriptional events associated with soldier caste differentiation. Some digestive enzymes, such as endogenous beta-endoglucanase and chymotrypsin, as well as a protein associated to digestion were identified among genes downregulated after JHA treatment. This suggests that JH may directly influence the pseudergate-specific digestive system.
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”.