Sexually dimorphic body color is regulated by sex-specific expression of Yellow gene in ponerine ant, Diacamma Sp.

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Abstract

Most hymenopteran species exhibit conspicuous sexual dimorphism due to ecological differences between the sexes. As hymenopteran genomes, under the haplodiploid genetic system, exhibit quantitative differences between sexes while remaining qualitatively identical, sexual phenotypes are assumed to be expressed through sex-specific gene usage. In the present study, the molecular basis for expression of sexual dimorphism in a queenless ant, Diacamma sp., which exhibits a distinct color dimorphism, was examined. Worker females of the species appear bluish-black, while winged males exhibit a yellowish-brown body color. Initially, observations of the pigmentation processes during pupal development revealed that black pigmentation was present in female pupae but not in males, suggesting that sex-specific melanin synthesis was responsible for the observed color dimorphism. Therefore, five orthologs of the genes involved in the insect melanin synthesis (yellow, ebony, tan, pale and dopa decarboxylase) were subcloned and their spatiotemporal expression patterns were examined using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. Of the genes examined, yellow, which plays a role in black melanin synthesis in insects, was expressed at higher levels in females than in males throughout the entire body during the pupal stage. RNA interference of yellow was then carried out in order to determine the gene function, and produced females with a more yellowish, brighter body color similar to that of males. It was concluded that transcriptional regulation of yellow was responsible for the sexual color dimorphism observed in this species. © 2014 Miyazaki et al.

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Miyazaki, S., Okada, Y., Miyakawa, H., Tokuda, G., Cornette, R., Koshikawa, S., … Miura, T. (2014). Sexually dimorphic body color is regulated by sex-specific expression of Yellow gene in ponerine ant, Diacamma Sp. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092875

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