Higher expression of somatic repair genes in long-lived ant queens than workers

Eric R. Lucas, Eyal Privman, Laurent Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding why organisms senesce is a fundamental question in biology. One common explanation is that senescence results from an increase in macromolecular damage with age. The tremendous variation in lifespan between genetically identical queen and worker ants, ranging over an order of magnitude, provides a unique system to study how investment into processes of somatic maintenance and macromolecular repair influence lifespan. Here we use RNAseq to compare patterns of expression of genes involved in DNA and protein repair of age-matched queens and workers. There was no difference between queens and workers in 1-day-old individuals, but the level of expression of these genes increased with age and this up-regulation was greater in queens than in workers, resulting in significantly queen-biased expression in 2-month-old individuals in both legs and brains. Overall, these differences are consistent with the hypothesis that higher longevity is associated with increased investment into somatic repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1940-1951
Number of pages12
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For advice on ant collection and rearing, we thank Romain Libbrecht. For helpful advice on bioinformatics and statistical analysis, we thank Oksana Riba-Grognuz and Charlotte Sonseson. We also thank Joel Parker, Vincent Dion, Miguel Corona and David Gems for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a Seventh Framework Programme Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship (297898) to Eric Lucas, as well as by a Swiss NSF grant (310030_156732) and an advanced ERC grant (249375) to Laurent Keller.


  • Ageing
  • Gene expression
  • Lifespan
  • Social insects
  • Somatic maintenance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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