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454 Sequencing(TM) in Science Today: Researchers Uncover a Genetic Basis for Different Social Behaviors in Wasps
Date:9/27/2007

BRANFORD, Conn. Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- 454 Life Sciences, a Roche company, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign today announced that they have uncovered genetic underpinnings to social behavior in wasps. Using the company's Genome Sequencer(TM) system, the researchers examined messenger RNA from the brains of wasps and correlated different expression patterns to different social behaviors. The study, entitled "Wasp brain gene expression supports an evolutionary link between maternal behavior and eusociality," appears online (ahead of print) today in the journal Science.

The presence of workers that forgo reproduction and care for their siblings is a defining feature of eusociality and a major challenge for evolutionary theory. It has been proposed that worker behavior evolved from maternal care behavior. The researchers explored this idea by studying gene expression (what genes are active and to what extent) in wasps. Gene expression in workers was more similar to foundresses, which show maternal care, than to queens and gynes, which do not. Insulin-related genes were among those genes showing a distinct pattern, suggesting that the evolution of eusociality involves major nutritional and reproductive pathways.

"Our goal was to test the prediction that maternal and worker (eusocial) behaviors share a common molecular basis," explained Gene Robinson, PhD., senior author and G. William Arends Professor of Integrative Biology and Director of the Neuroscience Program at the University of Illinois. "We used 454 Sequencing, together with the recently sequenced honey bee genome, to rapidly bring genomics to a model social organism, the wasp. This research is an early example of the utility of 454 sequencing for transcriptomics."

"The Genome Sequencer generates hundreds of thousands of long, highly- accurate reads in a single run, giving researchers unprecedented detail and accuracy for transcriptome
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