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Open Access Short Report

Microsatellite loci characterized in the leaf-cutter ant Atta laevigata

Sérgio Kakazu1, Alexandra Sanches2 and Maurício Bacci Jr1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Estudos de Insetos Sociais, Instituto de Biociências, UNESP - Univ Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, SP 13506-900, Brazil

2 Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biociências, UNESP - Univ Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, SP 13506-900, Brazil

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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:328  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-328

Published: 17 August 2013



The leaf-cutter ant Atta laevigata (Formicidae: Attini) is an agricultural pest largely distributed in the Neotropics and a model organism for studies of evolution, speciation and population genetics. Microsatellites are a very powerful tool for these kind of studies, but such markers are not available for studies on A. laevigata. In the present report, we describe the isolation and characterization of nine microsatellite loci in A. laevigata and the testing of these markers across other species of leaf-cutter ants.


Nine microsatellite loci, consisting of six dinucloeotide, one trinucleotide, one tetranucleotide, and one di/trinucleotide repeat motifs, were isolated and characterized. Primers and protocols were successfully designed to selectively amplify these markers. To test effectiveness of these markers for detailed population genetic studies, we genotyped female workers collected from 36 monogynic nests of A. laevigata and found that eight loci were within Hardy–Weinberg expectations, while the remaining locus had a deficiency of heterozygotes. Micro-Checker analysis of individuals from 55 monogynic nests indicated that loci Alae11, Alae24, Alae18 showed signs of null alleles. For the remaining six loci, the number of alleles per locus ranged between 2 and 11, with expected heterozygosity ranging between 0.07 and 0.88. All of these loci cross-amplified in other species of Atta.


These six polymorphic microsatellite loci should prove useful for future genetic investigations of the pest species Atta laevigata, as well as studies of other species of leaf-cutter ants in the genus Atta.

Attini; Molecular systematics; Pest ant; Population genetics; Speciation