The social behaviour of bees depends on the highly complex interactions of multiple gene groups rather than on one single gene. This has been established by an international team of researchers that includes scientists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). The researchers analysed and compared ten bee genomes in order to identify a common genetic basis for the social behaviour of different species of bees. Their research findings were published last evening in the renowned journal “Science”.
In the study, scientists from Europe, Asia and the Americas compared the genomes of ten species of bees that exhibit different degrees of social behaviour. "While several wild bees live their entire lives as solitary insects, other bees live in colonies with highly complex social structures, allowing for efficient division of labour," explains Professor Robin Moritz from the Institute of Biology at MLU.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign spearheaded the study in which numerous international research institutions including MLU also participated. The study's findings were published on Thursday evening in "Science". In the study, the scientists used five bee genomes that had already been sequenced, as well as the newly-sequenced genomes of five additional species of bees.
The researchers were astonished to find that the same genes aren't always active in complex social organisations. "There is no single gene that makes a bee social," says Moritz, summing up the study. Instead there are patterns in the regulatory networks that are responsible for the activity of different genes. These networks represent cascades of multiple genes that are switched on or off together: the more complex the bees' social organisation is, the larger is the network of the collectively regulated genes.
The researchers also discovered that, as the degree of social organisation increases, so too does the number of so-called transcription factor binding sites. These binding sites serve as the critical on and off switches for regulating complex gene cascades. Similarly, the methylation of genes also increases with increasing complexity of the social organisation as an additional mechanism to control whether a gene is activated or not.
In their work on the project, Robin Moritz's team of biologists in Halle examined the different bee genomes for so-called "jumping genes". "These DNA segments change position within the genome, in other words, jump to other genes and are able to deactivate them," explains Dr Michael Lattorff, who works at the Institute of Biology alongside Moritz.
The researchers found less of these elements in the socially complex bee species. It has yet to be conclusively determined whether this is the reason for their complex social organisation, or a result of it. Professor Martin Hasselmann from the University of Hohenheim and an alumnus of MLU was also a member of the international team. He and his team mainly looked at the genes involved in determining the gender of bees.
The research group led by Robin Moritz, Michael Lattorff and Martin Hasselmann also participated in other publications that appeared in the scientific journal "Genome Biology". In these studies they examined the genome and sequenced the DNA of the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and the common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), a native of North America. In one publication the researchers compared the DNA of both bumblebees to that of the closely related honeybee. Their other publication analysed the immune system of bumblebees and the genetic basis for their social behaviour.
Kapheim et al. 2015. Genomic Signatures of Evolutionary Transitions from Solitary to Group Living. Science, 14.05.2015; DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4788
Sadd et al. 2015. The genomes of two key bumblebee species with primitive eusocial organization, Genome Biology, dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-015-0623-3
Barribeau et al. 2015. A depauperate immune repertoire precedes evolution of sociality in bees, Genome Biology, dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13059-015-0628-y
Manuela Bank-Zillmann | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy