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Nat Commun. 2018 Oct 18;9(1):4338. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06824-8.

The genetic basis of a social polymorphism in halictid bees.

Author information

1
Department of Ecology and Evoutionary Biology, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA. skocher@princeton.edu.
2
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 28 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA. skocher@princeton.edu.
3
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 28 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.
4
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard University, 52 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA, 01238, USA.
5
Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA.
6
Department of Ecology and Evoutionary Biology, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA.
7
Kunming Institute for Zoology, 32 Jiaochang Donglu, Kunming, Yunnan, 650223, China.
8
Center for Excellence in Animal Evolution and Genetics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 32 Jiaochang Donglu, Kunming, Yunnan, 650223, China.
9
School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK.
10
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 28 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA. npierce@oeb.harvard.edu.

Abstract

The emergence of eusociality represents a major evolutionary transition from solitary to group reproduction. The most commonly studied eusocial species, honey bees and ants, represent the behavioral extremes of social evolution but lack close relatives that are non-social. Unlike these species, the halictid bee Lasioglossum albipes produces both solitary and eusocial nests and this intraspecific variation has a genetic basis. Here, we identify genetic variants associated with this polymorphism, including one located in the intron of syntaxin 1a (syx1a), a gene that mediates synaptic vesicle release. We show that this variant can alter gene expression in a pattern consistent with differences between social and solitary bees. Surprisingly, syx1a and several other genes associated with sociality in L. albipes have also been implicated in autism spectrum disorder in humans. Thus, genes underlying behavioral variation in L. albipes may also shape social behaviors across a wide range of taxa, including humans.

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