CAREER: Genomic Analysis of Pheromone-Mediated Behavior

Project: Research project

Project Details


Chemical communication is a complex process in which a chemical signal is translated into a distinct behavioral or physiological response. The environmental context, physiological state, or genotype of the receiving animal can profoundly affect how the animal responds, but the molecular bases for this modulation are largely unknown. This project is designed to study the genetic and physiological factors that modulate how honey bees respond to queen mandibular pheromone (QMP), the main pheromonal regulator of bee behavior and colony organization. QMP is unusual in that it induces a variety of responses. These studies will characterize the effects of physiological factors and genetic variation on three responses, but also determine if primer and releaser pheromone responses are coupled, and if specific brain gene expression patterns are associated with different responses. This project will provide insight into how an external chemical cue is translated into a behavioral or physiological response by the brain, and will also address the physiological, genotypic and evolutionary factors that modulate these processes. The studies will serve as a platform for integrated education, training and outreach activities. In particular the behavioral assays will be the cornerstone of a program aimed at engaging high school students in hands-on scientific research, by allowing them to create, design, and analyze their own experiments using honey bees. The microarray studies will be used in two new courses, Insect Neurogenomics and Molecular Techniques in Ecology and Evolution, to both demonstrate to students the opportunities available in interdisciplinary molecular research on non-genetic model systems and to familiarize them with cutting edge molecular techniques. Lastly, these studies will help build and support an active research program that engages K-12 students, undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral researches, and integrates their work with a number of collaborative ventures both within and between departments at NCSU, and nationally and internationally.

Effective start/end date9/1/081/31/10


  • National Science Foundation: $667,807.00


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