The secret of the exceptional longevity of the queens of this ant species, finally explained?

The secret of the exceptional longevity of the queens of this ant species, finally explained?

The secret of the exceptional longevity of the queens of this ant species, finally explained?

Surely, this ant never ceases to amaze us! Recently, a research team revealed that in the species Arpegnathos jumper, when a worker becomes queen – after a “tournament” in which all members of the colony participate, she sees her ovaries swell and her brain shrink by about 25%. Changes that are reversible (Penick et al., 2021).

These Indian ants are capable of shrinking their brains to play queens

Now, a new study published in the journal Science (9/1/2022) explores the mystery of the longevity of these queens. Their lifespan is 500% of that of worker bees, i.e. three years and three months instead of just eight months.

The queen, an ant that eats a lot!

According to these American researchers, the new queens – called “gamergates” (‘married workers’, in Greek) – would be able to slow down their aging by partially counteracting the effects of insulin in their bodies.

This is because gamergates have no choice but to increase their production of insulin – the hormone that helps move sugar into cells – to cope with the astounding amount of food they have to consume in order to lay down.

If you want to lay eggs, you need to have a lot of insulin because you are constantly eating“, explains a Live science Claude Desplan, lead author of the study and professor of biology and neuroscience at New York University (United States).

Invasion of ants in Saumur: who is the Tapinoma Magnum?

However, the rush of insulin into the body is accompanied by side effects. Because in addition to helping transport sugar into cells, this hormone triggers molecular chain reactions such as the “Akt signaling pathway”, which contributes to the aging process.

Slows down cellular aging

But by analyzing the RNA content – copies of DNA that are used in cells to make proteins – of the tissues of the brain, ovaries and “fat body” (the equivalent of our liver) in queens and workers, the researchers they found that gamergates not only produced insulin, but also another protein, called “Imp-L2,” which they believed blocked the Akt signaling pathway normally stimulated by insulin.

Therefore, queens can produce huge amounts of insulin by promoting their reproduction, while slowing their aging, the researchers conclude.

Also, in the same way that a queen’s brain returns to its normal size if it is moved to another colony where she must resume her role as a worker, her longevity also returns to normal, the study authors note.

Ant colonies function as neural networks when making decisions

The team of scientists would now like to understand how the Imp-L2 protein can block the molecular signaling pathway linked to aging without affecting reproduction, the lead author said. Live science. To do this, they plan to compare the jumping ant with other insects such as the Drosophila fly or even with mammals.

Why, perhaps, one day apply this secret of longevity to humans? I’m not sure : “The ant does not lend: – This is its slightest fault“Said Jean de la Fontaine.

Read also:

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