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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Jan 26;113(4):1020-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1516636113. Epub 2016 Jan 11.

Testing the kinship theory of intragenomic conflict in honey bees (Apis mellifera).

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Department of Entomology, Center for Pollinator Research, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802;
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138; Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544;
Glenn Apiaries, Fallbrook, CA 92088;
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802;
Department of Entomology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907;
Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130.


Sexual reproduction brings genes from two parents (matrigenes and patrigenes) together into one individual. These genes, despite being unrelated, should show nearly perfect cooperation because each gains equally through the production of offspring. However, an individual's matrigenes and patrigenes can have different probabilities of being present in other relatives, so kin selection could act on them differently. Such intragenomic conflict could be implemented by partial or complete silencing (imprinting) of an allele by one of the parents. Evidence supporting this theory is seen in offspring-mother interactions, with patrigenes favoring acquisition of more of the mother's resources if some of the costs fall on half-siblings who do not share the patrigene. The kinship theory of intragenomic conflict is little tested in other contexts, but it predicts that matrigene-patrigene conflict may be rife in social insects. We tested the hypothesis that honey bee worker reproduction is promoted more by patrigenes than matrigenes by comparing across nine reciprocal crosses of two distinct genetic stocks. As predicted, hybrid workers show reproductive trait characteristics of their paternal stock, (indicating enhanced activity of the patrigenes on these traits), greater patrigenic than matrigenic expression, and significantly increased patrigenic-biased expression in reproductive workers. These results support both the general prediction that matrigene-patrigene conflict occurs in social insects and the specific prediction that honey bee worker reproduction is driven more by patrigenes. The success of these predictions suggests that intragenomic conflict may occur in many contexts where matrigenes and patrigenes have different relatednesses to affected kin.


evolutionary biology; intragenomic conflict; kinship theory; social insects; sociogenomics

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