Meeting Abstract

S9-11  Sunday, Jan. 8 14:30 - 15:00  Epigenetic basis of development of social behaviors in honeybees HERB, Brian R.; Johns Hopkins University

Social insects have the incredible ability to produce behaviorally distinct individuals that work together in an interdependent manner. Although many species have achieved sociality throughout evolution, recent studies have not identified a common genetic path to sociality. A key hallmark of social insects is their ability to flexibly shift between tasks according to the needs of the group. In honeybees, workers first assume nursing tasks, and then transition into foraging tasks later in life. This transition is in part dictated by the complex mixture of social cues within the hive that subtly influence worker bees. Epigenetic mechanisms provide a flexible means of transcriptional control that can be responsive to external stimuli. In particular, the epigenetic mark DNA methylation has been shown to assist in worker transitions in honeybee and may assist in phenotype development in other social insects. Since social insects lack a common genetic path to sociality, but do maintain epigenetic machinery, a survey of DNA methylation patterns across social insects was performed. Through the comparison of syntenic regions, gene targets of DNA methylation were compared across social species to identify conserved uses of epigenetic regulation.