Tissue-specific transcription patterns support the kinship theory of intragenomic conflict in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

David A. Galbraith, Rong Ma, Christina M. Grozinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Kin selection may act differently on genes inherited from parents (matrigenes and patrigenes), resulting in intragenomic conflict. This conflict can be observed as differential expression of matrigenes and patrigenes, or parent-specific gene expression (PSGE). In honey bees (Apis mellifera), intragenomic conflict is hypothesized to occur in multiple social contexts. Previously, we found that patrigene-biased expression in reproductive tissues was associated with increased reproductive potential in worker honey bees, consistent with the prediction that patrigenes are selected to promote selfish behaviour in this context. Here, we examined brain gene expression patterns to determine if PSGE is also found in other tissues. As before, the number of transcripts showing patrigene expression bias was significantly greater in the brains of reproductive vs. sterile workers, while the number of matrigene-biased transcripts was not significantly different. Twelve transcripts out of the 374 showing PSGE in either tissue showed PSGE in both brain and reproductive tissues; this overlap was significantly greater than expected by chance. However, the majority of transcripts show PSGE only in one tissue, suggesting the epigenetic mechanisms mediating PSGE exhibit plasticity between tissues. There was no significant overlap between transcripts that showed PSGE and transcripts that were significantly differentially expressed. Weighted gene correlation network analysis identified modules which were significantly enriched in both types of transcripts, suggesting that these genes may influence each other through gene networks. Our results provide further support for the kin selection theory of intragenomic conflict, and provide valuable insights into the mechanisms which may mediate this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1041
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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