Differential expression analysis of Nylanderia fulva workers and queens under varying dietary treatments
Joan Theresa King , Joan Theresa King , Fabian List , Andrew Davitt , Edward L. Vargo , Aaron M. Tarone
Texas A&M University, USA ; Texas A&M University, USA ; Texas A&M University, USA ; Texas A&M University, USA ; Texas A&M University, USA ; Texas A&M University, USA
The tawny crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva, is an invasive ant in the southern United States. A major ecological concern is that N. fulva displaces many native ant populations in its invasive range. In addition, these ants cause economic damage because they transport pathogens to other organisms and damage electrical equipment. During the winter months in the eastern United States, N. fulva populations become rare, therefore making collecting difficult. Rearing has also been a challenge for researchers because although these invasive ants perform well in their introduced range, they are difficult to maintain in a laboratory setting. Pervious research on investigating various diets has shown that beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) with artificial diet results in the highest level of brood production and colony growth. By using worker and queen body parts and RNA-seq, the diet performance of N. fulva was investigated to elucidate what food sources work best and what changes in gene expression occur in specific body regions. The diets explored were artificial diet, beet armyworm, artificial diet and beet armyworm, termites, and water with sucrose solution. For workers, two types of specific body samples were used: head and thorax and head, thorax, and abdomen. For queens, three types of specific body samples were used: head and thorax, queen abdomen, and queen abdomen with Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). For each sample and treatment, ten workers were pooled, and five queens were pooled. Understanding how nutrition affects gene expression will lead to a better understanding of how this invasive ant performs under different dietary treatments, and in turn, lead to better rearing performance. Furthermore, these results will improve our knowledge of how invasive ants successfully perform in their new environments.