Social insects such as termites live in colonies in which cooperation is assumed by all individuals developing into castes to which specific tasks are allocated. Little has been reported about molecular aspects underlying termite caste-specific gene expression. Genetic regulation has recently been hypothesized to govern caste-specific traits and physiology in social insects. Cytochrome c oxidase (COX) has been shown to be an interesting candidate for expression study in insects. We used the cytochrome c oxidase subunit III gene (COXIII) that was cloned from mRNA in a lower termite, Reticulitermes santonensis De Feytaud (Isoptera; Rhinotermitidae). The full-length cDNA encodes a protein of 262 amino acids that shows high degree of homology with other insects COXIIIs. Reverse transcriptase-PCR and real-time PCR were performed to compare gene expression between larvae, workers, nymphs and soldiers. Analyses performed on head cDNAs revealed that COXIII is differentially expressed between castes. The level of COXIII is caste-regulated with an increase in workers (similar to 1.9-fold) and nymphs (similar to 2.8-fold) and a decrease in soldiers (0.8-fold) compared to the expression level in larvae (1.0-fold). These results may emphasize the physiological importance of COX in the termite brain at different developmental stages.
- Biologiska vetenskaper