The increased insulin in pseudoqueens induces ovary development, which then begins producing an insulin-suppressing protein called Imp-L2. Imp-L2 blocks signaling in the other main branch of the insulin signaling pathway, AKT, which controls aging and whose increased activity leads to shorter life span.
“The two main branches of the insulin signaling pathway appear to differentially regulate fertility and lifespan, with increased signaling in one aiding reproduction in pseudoqueens and decreased signaling in the other consistent with their extended longevity,” said the study’s co-senior author Danny Reinberg, the Terry and Mel Karmazin Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
“This interplay, which evolved in ants and perhaps in other insects, may contribute to the unusual longevity and many offspring in reproducing ants,” said Hua Yan, the study’s co-first author and a former postdoctoral researcher at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, who is now an assistant professor of biology at the University of Florida.
“Our work also illustrates the importance of using the appropriate model systems to ask questions about essential biological questions. For instance, most manipulations of longevity in animals like mice or flies usually extend their lifespans by 10 to 20 percent. Ants exhibit a remarkable 500 percent increase in longevity, which makes studying them much more powerful,” added Desplan.
Additional study authors include Comzit Opachaloemphan, Francisco Carmona-Aldana, Giacomo Mancini, Jakub Mlejnek, Nicolas Descostes, Bogdan Sieriebriennikov, Alexandra Leibholz, Long Ding, and Maria Traficante of NYU, and Xiaofan Zhou of the South China Agricultural University. The research was supported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute Collaborative Innovation Awards (#2009005), the National Institutes of Health (R21GM114457, R01EY13010, R01AG058762, F32AG044971), the National Science Foundation (I/UCRC CAMTech grant IIP1821914) and the Human Frontier Science Program (LT000010/2020-L).