Proteins for One or Many Queens

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Science  11 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5553, pp. 229
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5553.229j

In the fire ant Solenopsis invicta, the social structure of the colony is determined in large part by alleles of the gene Gp-9. Colonies in the United States in which the workers bear the B allele have single queens, and those bearing the b allele have multiple queens. Krieger and Ross (p. 328) now show that Gp-9 encodes a putative pheromone binding protein, which indicates that the number of egg-laying queens is determined by worker recognition. A glutamic acid residue at position 151 of the B allele is changed to lysine in the b allele, which changes the protein's charge and accounts for their different electrophoretic mobilities of the two alleles.

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