Figure 2 pheromone overview jpeg.jpg

Sociogenomics of chemical communication

Our research has examined the mechanisms that regulate complex chemical communication systems in insect societies.   Classically, studies of chemical communication in animals have focused on identifying active chemical compounds and characterizing the behavioral responses to these signals.  We have sought to extend this work to the molecular level, to understand the mechanisms that translate chemical signals into behavioral and physiological changes.  We demonstrated that, in honey bees, exposure to queen pheromone caused behaviorally-relevant transcriptional changes, even in the absence of expression of these behaviors [1-3].  We extended these studies to other social insects (bumble bees [4-8], paper wasps [9], and fire ants [10, 11]) to examine the conservation and the evolution of these pheromone response pathways.  Our results provide support for the model that aggression and social interactions primarily mediate reproductive dominance in more primitively eusocial systems (species with small colonies and flexible dominance structures) - though chemical signals may serve to reinforce these interactions - while pheromones evolved later to mediate reproductive dominance in advanced eusocial systems.  

Current lab members: Rong Ma

Former lab members: Etya Amsalem, Brendan Fussnecker, Fabio Manfredini, Mario Padilla, Amy Toth, Ryan Reynolds

Collaborators (Penn State): Naomi Altman, John Tooker

Collaborators: Guy Bloch, Jonathan Cnaani, Abraham Hefetz, Laurent Keller, Gene Robinson, DeWayne Shoemaker, Peter Teal


 1. Grozinger CM, Sharabash NM, Whitfield CW, Robinson GE: Pheromone-mediated gene expression in the honey bee brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003, 100 Suppl 2:14519-14525.

2. Grozinger CM, Fischer P, Hampton JE: Uncoupling primer and releaser responses to pheromone in honey bees. Naturwissenschaften 2007, 94(5):375-379.

3. Grozinger CM, Robinson GE: Endocrine modulation of a pheromone-responsive gene in the honey bee brain. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 2007, 193(4):461-470.

4. Amsalem E, Orlova M, Grozinger CM: A conserved class of queen pheromones? Re-evaluating the evidence in bumblebees (Bombus impatiens). Proc Biol Sci 2015, 282(1817):20151800.

5. Amsalem E, Teal P, Grozinger CM, Hefetz A: Precocene-I inhibits juvenile hormone biosynthesis, ovarian activation, aggression and alters sterility signal production in bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) workers. The Journal of experimental biology 2014, 217(Pt 17):3178-3185.

6. Padilla M, Amsalem E, Altman N, Hefetz A, Grozinger CM: Chemical communication is not sufficient to explain reproductive inhibition in the bumblebee Bombus impatiens. R Soc Open Sci 2016, 3(10):160576.

7. Shpigler H, Patch HM, Cohen M, Fan Y, Grozinger CM, Bloch G: The transcription factor Kruppel homolog 1 is linked to hormone mediated social organization in bees. BMC Evol Biol 2010, 10:120.

8.Amsalem E, Malka O, Grozinger C, Hefetz A: Exploring the role of juvenile hormone and vitellogenin in reproduction and social behavior in bumble bees. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14(1):45.

9. Toth AL, Tooker JF, Radhakrishnan S, Minard R, Henshaw MT, Grozinger CM: Shared genes related to aggression, rather than chemical communication, are associated with reproductive dominance in paper wasps (Polistes metricus). BMC Genomics 2014, 15:75.

10. Manfredini F, Lucas C, Nicolas M, Keller L, Shoemaker D, Grozinger CM: Molecular and social regulation of worker division of labour in fire ants. Mol Ecol 2014, 23(3):660-672.

11. Manfredini F, Riba-Grognuz O, Wurm Y, Keller L, Shoemaker D, Grozinger CM: Sociogenomics of cooperation and conflict during colony founding in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. PLoS Genet 2013, 9(8):e1003633.