Decay of homologous chromosome pairs and discovery of males in the thelytokous fungus-growing ant Mycocepurus smithii

Luísa Antônia Campos Barros, Christian Rabeling, Gisele Amaro Teixeira, Cléa dos Santos Ferreira Mariano, Jacques Hubert Charles Delabie, Hilton Jeferson Alves Cardoso de Aguiar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The prevalent mode of reproduction among ants is arrhenotokous parthenogenesis where unfertilized eggs give rise to haploid males and fertilized eggs develop into diploid females. Some ant species are capable of thelytokous parthenogenesis, a type of asexual reproduction where females develop from unfertilized diploid eggs. Thelytoky is well-documented in more than 20 ant species. Cytogenetic data are available for six species demonstrating that some thelytokous ant species are capable of producing males occasionally as well as maintaining their chromosome numbers and proper chromosome pairings. Mycocepurus smithii is a thelytokous fungus-growing ant species that inhabits large parts of Central and South America. Cytogenetic data are unavailable for M. smithii and male individuals were never documented for this species, although the presence of males is expected because genetic recombination was observed in a few sexually reproducing populations in Brazil and haploid sperm was documented from the spermathecae of M. smithii queens. This study aims at comparatively studying asexual and sexual populations of M. smithii using classical and molecular cytogenetic methods to test whether karyotype configuration is modified according to the mode of reproduction in M. smithii. Moreover, we report the discovery of M. smithii males from a sexually reproducing population in the Brazilian state Pará, diagnose the male of M. smithii, and morphologically characterize their spermatozoa. Karyotypic variation was observed within the asexual population (2n = 9, 10, or 11), whereas the chromosome number was fixed in the sexual population (2n = 14, n = 7). Identical karyotypes were maintained within individual M. smithii colonies and karyotype variation was only observed between colonies. In asexual individuals, the karyomorphs showed a decay of homologous chromosome pairs, especially in individuals with the karyomorph 2n = 11, which is potentially caused by relaxed natural selection on proper chromosome pairing. In contrast, females in the sexual population showed proper homologous chromosome pairings. In individuals of both asexual and sexual populations, we find that heterochromatin was localized in centromeric regions and on the short arms of the chromosomes, GC-rich regions were associated with heterochromatic regions, and 18S rDNA genes were located on the largest chromosome pair. This comparative cytogenetic analysis contributes to our understanding about the cytological mechanisms associated with thelytokous parthenogenesis in ants and suggests the decay of chromosome structure in the absence of meiosis and genetic recombination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4860
JournalScientific reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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