Thursday, November 28, 2019
Explaining Different Behaviors like whether an ant becomes a warrior or forager is linked to a genetic origin. Researchers posited that if one could enable or disable some type of genetic switch, behaviors in ants could be manipulated. CoREST is that genetic switch and showed that ants can be reprogrammed to do different jobs like a soldier ant being turned into a forager ant. Shelley Berger, a molecular biologist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine says, "[this is]... the first epigenetic mechanism found in ants to regulate behavior in the brain." They were able to boost CoREST in ants by injecting them with trichostatin A. Afterwards, with increased levels of CoREST, the enzyme that breaks down the juvenile hormone is repressed. By repressing the enzyme, ants like the soldier ants with lower levels of CoREST can be made to have elevated levels of CoREST and become more like the forager ants.
These findings are sort of ambiguous because if an injection is needed to elevate a chemical, then how often will the injection be needed? On the other hand, it is also the begining of explaining ants' social behavior. These are questions that have lingered for so long and now are beginning to be answered.