Social environment affects the transcriptomic response to bacteria in ant queens Journal Article

Author(s): Viljakainen, Lumi; Jurvansuu, Jaana K; Holmberg, Ida; Pamminger, Tobias; Erler, Silvio; Cremer, Sylvia
Article Title: Social environment affects the transcriptomic response to bacteria in ant queens
Affiliation IST Austria
Abstract: Social insects have evolved enormous capacities to collectively build nests and defend their colonies against both predators and pathogens. The latter is achieved by a combination of individual immune responses and sophisticated collective behavioral and organizational disease defenses, that is, social immunity. We investigated how the presence or absence of these social defense lines affects individual-level immunity in ant queens after bacterial infection. To this end, we injected queens of the ant Linepithema humile with a mix of gram+ and gram− bacteria or a control solution, reared them either with workers or alone and analyzed their gene expression patterns at 2, 4, 8, and 12 hr post-injection, using RNA-seq. This allowed us to test for the effect of bacterial infection, social context, as well as the interaction between the two over the course of infection and raising of an immune response. We found that social isolation per se affected queen gene expression for metabolism genes, but not for immune genes. When infected, queens reared with and without workers up-regulated similar numbers of innate immune genes revealing activation of Toll and Imd signaling pathways and melanization. Interestingly, however, they mostly regulated different genes along the pathways and showed a different pattern of overall gene up-regulation or down-regulation. Hence, we can conclude that the absence of workers does not compromise the onset of an individual immune response by the queens, but that the social environment impacts the route of the individual innate immune responses.
Keywords: Immunity; Hymenoptera; social insect; transcriptomics; RNA-seq
Journal Title: Ecology and Evolution
ISSN: 20457758
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd  
Date Published: 2018-10-24
Start Page: in press
Copyright Statement: CC BY 4.0
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.4573
Open access: yes (OA journal)