- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- International Conference on Wireless Mobile Communication and Healthcare MobiHealth 2020: Wireless Mobile Communication and Healthcare
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Time-course RNASeq of Camponotus floridanus forager and nurse ant brains indicate links between plasticity in the biological clock and behavioral division of labor
Circadian clocks allow organisms to anticipate daily fluctuations in their environment by driving rhythms in physiology and behavior. Inter-organismal differences in daily rhythms, called chronotypes, exist and can shift with age. In ants, age, caste-related behavior and chronotype appear to be linked. Brood-tending nurse ants are usually younger individuals and show “around-the-clock” activity. With age or in the absence of brood, nurses transition into foraging ants that show daily rhythms in activity. Ants can adaptively shift between these behavioral castes and caste-associated chronotypes depending on social context. We investigated how changes in daily gene expression could be contributing to such behavioral plasticity in
Camponotus floridanuscarpenter ants by combining time-course behavioral assays and RNA-Sequencing of forager and nurse brains. Results
We found that nurse brains have three times fewer 24 h oscillating genes than foragers. However, several hundred genes that oscillated every 24 h in forager brains showed robust 8 h oscillations in nurses, including the core clock genes
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This study provides a first look at the chronobiological differences in gene expression between forager and nurse ant brains. This endeavor allowed us to identify a putative molecular mechanism underlying plastic timekeeping: several components of the ant circadian clock and its output can seemingly oscillate at different harmonics of the circadian rhythm. We propose that such chronobiological plasticity has evolved to allow for distinct regulatory networks that underlie behavioral castes, while supporting swift caste transitions in response to colony demands. Behavioral division of labor is common among social insects. The links between chronobiological and behavioral plasticity that we found in
C. floridanus, thus, likely represent a more general phenomenon that warrants further investigation.
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