COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Molecular Mechanisms Underpinning The Kin Selection Theory Of Intragenomic Conflict

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project seeks to understand the genetic mechanisms regulating selfish and cooperative behaviors in animals, using honey bees as a model system. Previous studies showed that, in honey bees, genes inherited from the father promote selfish behavior, while the genes inherited from the mother promote cooperative behavior. The current project will use advanced genomic tools to unravel the molecular mechanisms that mediate this conflict between the father's and mother's genes, and provide a framework for understanding how the interactions between these genes generate behavior. The insights gained and methodology developed for these studies can be easily applied to explore these questions in other social animals. This project will be used as charismatic platform to increase understanding of social behavior in animals, how genes produce behavior, and why genes may be in conflict with each other, in K-12 students and teachers, the public, undergraduate and graduate students.

This project evaluates the function and regulation of intragenomic conflict in mediating social behavior, using honey bees as a model system. The kin selection theory of intragenomic conflict predicts that, in honey bees, patrigenes (inherited from the father) favor selfish behavior while matrigenes (inherited from the mother) favor altruistic behavior. Previous studies provided the first empirical support for this prediction. The current research will expand on these studies by: (1) confirming that patrigene expression mediates selfish behavior by developing new methodology for allele-specific manipulation of transcript abundance; (2) determining if parent-specific gene expression (PSGE) patterns are labile and vary according to tissue and context, while still corresponding to the predictions of kin selection theory; and (3) evaluating the extent of parent-specific DNA methylation (PSDM) across the genome and its role in regulating PSGE. These studies will integrate genetic crosses, behavior, physiology, RNAi approaches, whole transcriptome sequencing, bisulfite sequencing, bioinformatics, and statistical genomics, and open the door to examining intragenomic conflict as a pervasive force that can shape a myriad of traits related to fitness in social groups.

This project is co-funded by the Genetic Mechanisms Program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and by the Animal Behavior Program in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems.

Effective start/end date9/1/168/31/21


  • National Science Foundation: $389,462.00


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