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
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy