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Bioessays. 2001 Jan;23(1):62-8.

Gene expression and the evolution of insect polyphenisms.

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  • 1Bee Research Lab, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA. jevans@asrr.arsusda.gov


Polyphenic differences between individuals arise not through differences at the genome level but as a result of specific cues received during development. Polyphenisms often involve entire suites of characters, as shown dramatically by the polyphenic castes found in many social insect colonies. An understanding of the genetic architecture behind polyphenisms provides a novel means of studying the interplay between genomes, gene expression and phenotypes. Here we discuss polyphenisms and molecular genetic tools now available to unravel their developmental bases in insects. We focus on several recent studies that have tracked gene-expression patterns during social insect caste determination. BioEssays 23:62-68, 2001. Published 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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