1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Identification of specific proteins that can be used to discern fire ants from other ant species. 2. Define attractant characteristics of fire ant alarm pheromone. 3. Characterize environmental conditions in cargo containers and conduct initial probes of the use of the attractant to trap fire ants in cargo containers.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Obj. 1 - Much of the first year will be devoted to identifying specific proteins that can be used to discern fire ants from other ant species. Initially, experiments will be conducted on poison sac proteins; these tend to be unique even among congeners. Genes corresponding to certain poison sac proteins (e.g. SolI) and their homologues from other ant species will be sequenced, translated and compared. Those with sufficient differences will be marked as candidates for the next step. Obj. 2 - Bioactive release rates for the fire ant alarm pheromone will be determined through a combination of bioassays and chemical analyses. Obj. 3 - A cargo container will be rented and placed on location. Environmental measurement equipment will be used to assess daily fluctuations in, e.g. temperature and humidity. Fire ant colonies will be placed in cargo containers and initial trap prototypes evaluated.
3. Progress Report
This project is related to Objective 3 of this in-house project: Characterize semiochemicals through investigation of pheromone biosynthesis and release; use these findings to develop novel biologically-based control and surveillance methods, including the detection and treatment of incipient or low level populations. Rapid fire ant identification: A venom protein (Solenopsis invicta venom II, SoliII) was identified from fire ants with sufficient divergence to confer specificity as an antigen for monoclonal antibody production. Portions of the SoliII molecule were identified as unique to fire ants as opposed to ant species confused morphologically with fire ants and will serve as the basis for development of a lateral flow bioassay capable of identifying fire ants. Recombinant production of the unique peptides has begun. Antibody production will begin once the antigens have been produced. Fire ant specific trap: A fire ant specific pheromone has been demonstrated to attract low levels of fire ant workers. Also, fire ants were shown to be resilient to the harsh temperatures of cargo containers with minimal water.