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N 6 -methyladenosine modification of RNA controls dopamine synthesis to influence labour division in ants.

Molecular Ecology 2024 March 20
The N6 -methyladenosine (m6 A) modification of RNA has been reported to remodel gene expression in response to environmental conditions; however, the biological role of m6 A in social insects remains largely unknown. In this study, we explored the role of m6 A in the division of labour by worker ants (Solenopsis invicta). We first determined the presence of m6 A in RNAs from the brains of worker ants and found that m6 A methylation dynamics differed between foragers and nurses. Depletion of m6 A methyltransferase or chemical suppression of m6 A methylation in foragers resulted in a shift to 'nurse-like' behaviours. Specifically, mRNAs of dopamine receptor 1 (Dop1) and dopamine transporter (DAT) were modified by m6 A, and their expression increased dopamine levels to promote the behavioural transition from foragers to nurses. The abundance of Dop1 and DAT mRNAs and their stability were reduced by the inhibition of m6 A modification caused by the silencing of Mettl3, suggesting that m6 A modification in worker ants modulates dopamine synthesis, which regulates labour division. Collectively, our results provide the first example of the epitranscriptomic regulation of labour division in social insects and implicate m6 A regulatory mechanism as a potential novel target for controlling red imported fire ants.

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