The transcriptomic response to heat stress of the Sahara silver ant: insights into thermal scavenging
Quentin Willot, Quentin Willot , Serge Aron
Evolutionary Biology & Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; Evolutionary Biology & Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium ; Evolutionary Biology & Ecology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Understanding cellular stress resistance pathways and the heat-shock response has applications in a wide array of biological fields and holds broad consequences in our knowledge of cellular biology and evolution. The plasticity of this system has allowed life to thrive in almost all environments and successfully cope with adverse or even hostile conditions. Social insects have successfully colonized an extensive number of ecological niches and exhibit high resilience in coping with abiotic constraints. Some species even show further remarkable adaptations, as demonstrated by the extreme thermal scavenger the Sahara silver ant Cataglyphis bombycina. This desert insect possesses a record high body temperature tolerance (>50°C), which has been at least partly associated with molecular adaptations and specific modulation of its heat-shock response. Using RNA-seq, we characterized the transcriptomic response to heat of the Sahara silver ant in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the species heat-shock response from a physiological perspective. We isolated a set of 533 transcripts involved with various biological processes, among which several involved in maintaining proper energy production and myofilament integrity. We further investigated the biological relevance of 67 in a stress resistance context. Our results provide insights on the adaptation of this insect to successfully scavenge for the body of less tolerant heat-stricken arthropods on the burning ground, and survive the scorching heat of the desert.