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Epigenetic Regulation of Social Behavior

A key prediction of kin selection theory is that intragenomic conflict can arise between matrigenes and patrigenes when the fitness of those alleles are differentially impacted by traits of the individual.  These predictions were greatly elaborated to generate specific (and non-intuitive) predictions in social insect societies, due to their complex genetics, mating systems and social structures. Our studies have provided the first empirical data supporting these predictions in honey bees, laying the groundwork to examine intragenomic conflict as a key mechanism that can shape multiple traits related to fitness in social groups [1].  Currently, we are testing these models in bumble bees, and evaluating the mechanisms regulating parent-specific gene expression patterns, including tissue-specific variation and the role of DNA methylation.

Current lab members: David Galbraith, Ryan Reynolds

Former lab members: Sarah Kocher

Collaborators (Penn State): Istvan Alberts

Collaborators: Jonathan Cnaani, Tom Glenn, Abraham Hefetz, Greg Hunt, Elina Lastro Niño, David Queller, Joan Strassmann, Soojin Yi

Funding: NSF-MCB


 1. Galbraith DA, Kocher SD, Glenn T, Albert I, Hunt GJ, Strassmann JE, Queller DC, Grozinger CM: Testing the kinship theory of intragenomic conflict in honey bees (Apis mellifera). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016, 113(4):1020-1025.