Open Access Open Badges Research article

A genome-wide identification and analysis of the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors in the ponerine ant, Harpegnathos saltator

Ake Liu1, Yong Wang2*, Chunwang Dang1, Debao Zhang1, Huifang Song1, Qin Yao1 and Keping Chen1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Life Sciences, Jiangsu University, 301 Xuefu Road, Zhenjiang, 212013, P. R., China

2 School of Food and Biological Engineering, Jiangsu University, 301 Xuefu Road, Zhenjiang 212013, P. R., China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-165

Published: 31 August 2012



The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors and their homologs form a superfamily that plays essential roles in transcriptional networks of multiple developmental processes. bHLH family members have been identified in over 20 organisms, including fruit fly, zebrafish, human and mouse.


In this study, we conducted a genome-wide survey for bHLH sequences, and identified 57 bHLH sequences encoded in complete genome sequence of the ponerine ant, Harpegnathos saltator. Phylogenetic analysis of the bHLH domain sequences classified these genes into 38 bHLH families with 23, 14, 10, 1, 8 and 1 members in group A, B, C, D, E and F, respectively. The number of PabHLHs (ponerine ant bHLHs) with introns is higher than many other insect species, and they are found to have introns with average lengths only inferior to those of pea aphid. In addition, two H. saltator bHLHs named PaCrp1 and PaSide locate on two separate contigs in the genome.


A putative full set of PabHLH genes is comparable with other insect species and genes encoding Oligo, MyoRb and Fig╬▒ were not found in genomes of all insect species of which bHLH family members have been identified. Moreover, in-family phylogenetic analyses indicate that the PabHLH genes are more closely related with Apis mellifera than others. The present study will serve as a solid foundation for further investigations into the structure and function of bHLH proteins in the regulation of H. saltator development.

Basic helix-loop-helix; Transcription factor; Harpegnathos saltator; Phylogenetic analysis; Orthologous family; Blast search