Meeting Abstract

S9-8  Sunday, Jan. 8 11:30 - 12:00  Delimiting Gene Expression Differences Between Behavioral Castes in Temnothorax rugatulus LEIGHTON, GM*; WANG, X; GUTENKUNST, RN; DORNHAUS, A; Cornell University; University of Arizona; University of Arizona; University of Arizona

A striking example of variation in cooperative behavior is the behavioral division of labor observed in many eusocial insect societies. A large volume of work has explored how division of labor may be organized; however, only recently has work begun explaining the physiological mechanisms that underlie differences in behavior between individuals in these societies. Many previous studies focus on differences between queens and workers, with few studies rigorously defining differences between workers. To elucidate gene expression differences between different behavioral castes, we used RNA-sequencing to measure expression in three groups of workers in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus. Using detailed behavioral observations we identified “foragers”, “nurses”, and “inactives”. We collected individuals from each of these groups and performed RNA-sequencing on whole-body tissue, with two replicates. After quality control of sequences we retained a total of 270 million paired-end reads. We used the Trinity software package to build a reference transcriptome and aligned reads from each group to the reference. We then used the Trinity pipeline to identify genes that are differentially expressed between groups, and we employed pathway analysis to identify whether any pathways are enriched in certain groups. We find less differentiation in expression among groups than previous studies, and we compare our differentially expressed genes to other studies to determine if similar gene sets are used to promote similar behaviors. We then explore why we may not find strong similarities among other studies and suggest productive avenues for future research.