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Comparative physical mapping of 18S rDNA in the karyotypes of six leafcutter ant species of the genera Atta and Acromyrmex (Formicidae: Myrmicinae)


Leafcutter ants of the Atta and Acromyrmex genera are important plagues in different cultures. Cytogenetic data on chromosome number, morphology, and chromosomal banding pattern are only available for 17 species of leafcutter ants. Molecular cytogenetic data for the detection of ribosomal genes by the FISH technique are scarce, and only 15 Neotropical ant species have been studied. This study aimed to physically map the 18S ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) of six leafcutter ants belonging to the genera Atta and Acromyrmex using FISH. The results were compared with data on the fluorochrome CMA3 currently available for these species. All analyzed species presented the 18S rDNA on one pair of chromosomes. In Acromyrmex subterraneus molestans and Ac. aspersus, FISH signals were observed in the terminal region of the short arm of the largest subtelocentric pair, while in Atta bisphaerica, A. laevigata, and A. sexdens, FISH signals were observed in the interstitial region of the long arm of the fourth metacentric pair. In Acromyrmex striatus, 18S rDNA was located in the interstitial region of the second metacentric pair. The karyotypic formula for Ac. aspersus was 2n = 38 (8m + 10sm + 16st + 4a), representing the first report in this species. The observed 18S rDNA regions in A. laevigata, A. sexdens, A. bisphaerica, Ac. aspersus, and Ac. subterraneus molestans corresponded to the CMA3 + bands, while in Ac. striatus, several GC-rich bands and one pair of 18S rDNA bands were observed. No differential bands were visible using the DAPI fluorochrome. Karyotype uniformity with previously studied Atta spp. was also observed at the level of molecular cytogenetics using 18S rDNA FISH. A difference in the size of the chromosomal pair carrying the 18S rDNA gene was observed in Ac. striatus (2n = 22) and Atta spp. (2n = 22) highlighting the dissimilarity between these species. The results from the present study contribute to the description of 18S rDNA clusters in Neotropical ants.

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The authors are grateful to Júlio Cézar Mário Chaul for kindly providing the Acromyrmex striatus for cytogenetic analysis, Jacques Hubert Charles Delabie for species identification, and Denilce Meneses Lopes for the valuable contributions and suggestions for this study. The authors express their thanks to Laboratório de Sistemática Molecular Beagle and Laboratório de Biologia Molecular de Insetos of the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV) for the technical support provided. We also acknowledge Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG) for the scholarship grant provided to GAT and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES/ PNPD) the postdoctoral grant provided to LACB. This study was supported by FAPEMIG and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa da Bahia (FAPESB).

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Correspondence to Luísa Antônia Campos Barros.

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Teixeira, G.A., Barros, L.A.C., de Aguiar, H.J.A.C. et al. Comparative physical mapping of 18S rDNA in the karyotypes of six leafcutter ant species of the genera Atta and Acromyrmex (Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Genetica 145, 351–357 (2017).

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  • Acromyrmex
  • Leafcutter Ants
  • Chromomycin A3 (CMA3)
  • FISH Technique
  • Neotropical Ants