Epigenetic integration of genomic and environmental information in honey bees

Developing worker and queen bees

Description

To study the link between DNA methylation and environmental influences.

One focus of the honey bee ‘behavioural genomics’ in my lab is to explore how the genome integrates stimuli and information obtained from the environment, including the social environment, to orchestrate adaptive neural and behavioural outputs. Central to this approach is the study of epigenetic processes that provide a link between the genome and environment. Using multidisciplinary approaches we wish to investigate how some types of stimuli are able to affect the genome by altering gene expression and how these changes are integrated to create differential phenotypic and behavioural outputs.

This work will provide important clues to the question: how environment is linked to the genome and how ‘external’ changes can activate certain pathways that modify the global expressional profiles of an organism?

Our results will be of particular value to sociogenomics. This emerging field integrates behaviour and genomics to explain how the phenotypic effect of genes is modified by the social environment, and conversely how genes act in concert to create the social environment. Our project will advance this field because we will develop an integrated ‘epigenomic’ picture of the genome/environment interactions.

We believe that from the mechanistic point of view the underlying principles of gene-environment interactions uncovered in honey bees will apply to other animal species including humans. Thus, the findings of this project have the potential to be applicable to explaining regulatory changes underlying environmentally-driven mammalian gene expression.

Requirements

Basic molecular biology or genetics, basic bioinformatics.

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