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PLoS One. 2016 Aug 4;11(8):e0157980. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157980. eCollection 2016.

Linking Genes and Brain Development of Honeybee Workers: A Whole-Transcriptome Approach.

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Institute of Evolutionary Genetics, Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Centre for Information and Media Technology, Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Laboratory of Cellular and Developmental Biology, NIDDK, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Honeybees live in complex societies whose capabilities far exceed those of the sum of their single members. This social synergism is achieved mainly by the worker bees, which form a female caste. The worker bees display diverse collaborative behaviors and engage in different behavioral tasks, which are controlled by the central nervous system (CNS). The development of the worker brain is determined by the female sex and the worker caste determination signal. Here, we report on genes that are controlled by sex or by caste during differentiation of the worker's pupal brain. We sequenced and compared transcriptomes from the pupal brains of honeybee workers, queens and drones. We detected 333 genes that are differently expressed and 519 genes that are differentially spliced between the sexes, and 1760 genes that are differentially expressed and 692 genes that are differentially spliced between castes. We further found that 403 genes are differentially regulated by both the sex and caste signals, providing evidence of the integration of both signals through differential gene regulation. In this gene set, we found that the molecular processes of restructuring the cell shape and cell-to-cell signaling are overrepresented. Our approach identified candidate genes that may be involved in brain differentiation that ensures the various social worker behaviors.

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