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Elucidating the Path from Genotype to Behavior in Honey Bees: Insights from Epigenomics

  • Ryszard Maleszka
Chapter

Abstract

One of the key unresolved issues in biology is the relationship between a limited number of genes and virtually unlimited behavioral and phenotypic complexity of organisms belonging to different phyla. Recent advances in epigenetics suggest that genomic modifications via DNA methylation provide the level of flexibility that is important for generating morphological and behavioral diversity from the same genome that might be of particular importance for post-mitotic neurons. This robust and reversible chemical modification has the capacity of creating cell-specific epigenetic signatures that can persist even in the absence of the original stimulus because of the self-perpetuating properties of the DNA methylation system. These long-lasting effects are essential to maintaining cellular memory of context-dependent patterns of transcriptional activity. The critical contribution of DNA methylation to development and brain plasticity has already been demonstrated in mammals and in honey bees. Like humans, the honey bees utilize a conserved family of enzymes called DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) to mark their genes with methyl tags and are capable of producing highly plastic outcomes from a static genome. The honey bee offers an easily manageable and ecologically applicable model for studying the role of epigenetic mechanisms in development and behavior. The incorporation of epigenomic technologies into behavioral studies in honey bees is likely to accelerate the lingering process of translating the raw genomic sequences into a relevant neurobiological knowledge.

Keywords

Royal Jelly Gene Body Methylation Standard Genetic Program Royal Jelly Protein Active Zone Protein 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Abbreviations

CpG

Cytosine-phosphate-Guanine

DNMTs

DNA methyltransferases

LTM

Long-term memory

ncRNAs

non-protein-coding RNAs

RNAi

RNA interference

STM

Short-term memory

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of BiologyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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