Making ant wings

Gene expression patterns reveal features of the gene network governing wing development in ants.

By | July 16, 2002

The ant genome can direct the formation of queens with fully functional wings or wingless soldiers and workers — a phenomenon known as wing polyphenism. In the 12 July Science, Ehab Abouheif and Gregory Wray define the genetic network underlying wing development in ant castes (Science 2002, 297:249-252).

Abouheif and Wray examined genes orthologous to those involved in wing-patterning networks in other organisms by analyzing the expression patterns of six conserved genes that have been characterized in wing development in Drosophila and butterflies. They found some differences in expression patterns between winged queens and wingless soldiers or workers, and differences in gene expression between closely related ant species.

This gene network is found to be highly conserved but evolutionarily labile, explaining its important contribution to successful ant evolution.

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