Atypical vitellins in ponerine ants (Formicidae: Hymenoptera)

Diana Wheeler, Jürgen Liebig, Bert Hölldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Higher hymenopteran vitellogenin/vitellins have been characterized as containing one large apoprotein. We show that in the ant subfamily Ponerinae, species in the tribes Odontomachini, Platythyrini, and Amblyoponini, also have a vitellin with this simple structure, containing a single apoprotein of 180-190 kDa. Species in tribes Ponerini and Ectatommini, however, have vitellins containing multiple subunits. The size and number of the subunits varies, with differences even among species within the same genus. This is the first report of diversity in vitellogenin structure in the higher Hymenoptera. Vitellin and vitellogenin in Harpegnathos saltator (Ponerini) contain two large subunits of about 165 kDa and two small subunits of about 45 and 43 kDa. N-terminal sequence analysis suggests that provitellogenin is cleaved at two different sites, producing two large and two small subunits differing slightly in size. Diversity of vitellin types in Ponerini and Ectatommini is similar to that found in the more primitive tenthredinoid sawflies (Hymenoptera, Symphyta), and may indicate polyphyly in the Ponerinae. Insect vitellogenins and yolk proteins show considerably more diversity than originally believed, and the possibility of the functional significance of these differences should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of insect physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Harpegnathos saltator
  • Phylogeny
  • Ponerinae
  • Vitellin
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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