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posted by martyb on Friday August 11, @12:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the CRISPR-critters dept.

Two teams of scientists have used CRISPR to create genetically modified ants for the first time. Another team used an insect brain hormone to alter ant behavior:

The gene-editing technology called CRISPR has revolutionized the way that the function of genes is studied. So far, CRISPR has been widely used to precisely modify single-celled organisms and, more importantly, specific types of cells within more complex organisms. Now, two independent teams of investigators are reporting that CRISPR has been used to manipulate ant eggs—leading to germline changes that occur in every cell of the adult animals throughout the entire ant colony. The papers appear August 10 in Cell.

"These studies are proof of principle that you can do genetics in ants," says Daniel Kronauer, an assistant professor at The Rockefeller University and senior author of one of the studies. "If you're interested in studying social behaviors and their genetic basis, ants are a good system. Now, we can knock out any gene that we think will influence social behavior and see its effects."

Because they live in colonies that function like superorganisms, ants are also a valuable model for studying complex biological systems. But ant colonies have been difficult to grow and study in the lab because of the complexity of their life cycles.

The teams found a way to work around that, using two different species of ants. The Rockefeller team employed a species called clonal raider ants (Ooceraea biroi), which lacks queens in their colonies. Instead, single unfertilized eggs develop as clones, creating large numbers of ants that are genetically identical through parthogenesis. "This means that by using CRISPR to modify single eggs, we can quickly grow up colonies containing the gene mutation we want to study," Kronauer says.

orco Mutagenesis Causes Loss of Antennal Lobe Glomeruli and Impaired Social Behavior in Ants (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.001) (DX)

An engineered orco mutation produces aberrant social behavior and defective neural development in ants (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.051) (DX)

The neuropeptide corazonin controls social behavior and caste identity in ants (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.014) (DX)

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, @12:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, @12:55PM (#552252)
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by EvilSS on Friday August 11, @03:23PM (3 children)

    by EvilSS (1456) on Friday August 11, @03:23PM (#552351)
    Do they taste the same as organic NON-GMO ants?
    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday August 11, @03:42PM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 11, @03:42PM (#552366)

      I think they'll taste better than the bee's knees, especially better than the beez-kneezes at the high end of the town.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday August 11, @10:13PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday August 11, @10:13PM (#552616)

      So, the ants are out of control in my yard this summer... multiple varieties. If we could craft an ant that:

      1) Wouldn't bite people, or if it did, wouldn't inject painful venom

      2) Would defend a territory, without building a huge warren and mound

      3) Wouldn't eat wood

      4) Would attack: mole crickets, grasshoppers (especially the giant ones, [] and wasps

      5) Is easily repelled with innocuous chemicals like mint oil

      I'd bite - sign me up for 100 queens.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday August 11, @10:15PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday August 11, @10:15PM (#552618)

        Oh, I forgot, since it's a GMO - please make them glow in the dark, too!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, @02:11AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 12, @02:11AM (#552699)

    Ants are my all-time favorite critter. If we can modify them, perhaps we can have them develop a taste for communists!

    • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Saturday August 12, @05:08AM

      by captain normal (2205) on Saturday August 12, @05:08AM (#552740)

      Better yet a taste for RWNJs.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by maxwell demon on Saturday August 12, @05:45AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 12, @05:45AM (#552758) Journal

      Ants are communists. You won't see any competition between different ants of the same colony.

      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday August 12, @03:15PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday August 12, @03:15PM (#552861)

      They've already wiped out the quail (not Quayle) in Florida.