AnarchyIs a Molecular Signature of Worker Sterility in the Honey Bee

Isobel Ronai, Benjamin P. Oldroyd, Deborah A. Barton, Guénaël Cabanes, Julianne Lim, Vanina Vergoz
2015 Molecular biology and evolution  
Worker sterility is a defining characteristic of eusociality. The existence of the sterile worker caste remains a fundamental question for evolutionary biology as it requires the existence of genes that reduce personal reproduction. Currently, little is known about the proximate mechanisms underpinning worker sterility. Studies into a mutant "anarchistic" strain (in which workers can activate their ovaries) of honey bee, Apis mellifera, identified a list of candidate genes that regulate ovary
more » ... tivation. We quantified the expression of the four most promising candidate genes (Anarchy, Pdk1, S6k, and Ulk3) in nonactivated and activated ovaries of wild-type workers. Ovarian expression of Anarchy, a peroxisomal membrane protein, predicts the ovary state of workers with 88.2% accuracy. Increased expression of Anarchy in the ovary is strongly associated with suppression of oogenesis and its expression is sensitive to the presence of the queen. Therefore, Anarchy satisfies key criteria for a "gene underlying altruism". When we knocked down expression of Anarchy in the ovary using RNA interference (RNAi) we altered the expression of Buffy, a gene that regulates programmed cell death. Whole-mount multiplex fluorescent in situ hybridization (mFISH) shows Anarchy transcripts localize to degenerating oocytes within the ovary. Our results suggest that Anarchy is involved in the regulation of oogenesis through programmed cell death. The evolution of facultative worker sterility most likely occurred when the conserved mechanism of programmed cell death was co-opted to regulate ovary activation. Anarchy may therefore be the first example of a gene that has evolved through kin selection to regulate worker sterility.
doi:10.1093/molbev/msv202 pmid:26416979 fatcat:divk7vc6xvebbokkzdlm5mopzq