Article open access publication

Molecular traces of alternative social organization in a termite genome

Nature Communications, Springer Nature, ISSN 2041-1723

Volume 5, 1, 2014

DOI:10.1038/ncomms4636, Dimensions: pub.1017702562, PMID: 24845553,



  1. (1) Aix-Marseille University, grid.5399.6
  2. (2) University of Münster, grid.5949.1
  3. (3) Natural History Museum of Denmark, grid.507616.3
  4. (4) Beijing Genomics Institute, grid.21155.32
  5. (5) University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, grid.35403.31
  6. (6) University of Tulsa, grid.267360.6
  7. (7) North Carolina State University, grid.40803.3f
  8. (8) University of Missouri, grid.134936.a
  9. (9) Georgia Institute of Technology, grid.213917.f
  10. (10) Arizona State University, grid.215654.1
  11. (11) Osnabrück University, grid.10854.38
  12. (12) University of Freiburg, grid.5963.9
  13. (13) University of Arizona, grid.134563.6
  14. (14) University of Wyoming, grid.135963.b
  15. (15) University of Georgia, grid.213876.9
  16. (16) Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, grid.5252.0
  17. (17) Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute, grid.482515.f
  18. (18) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, grid.184769.5
  19. (19) Purdue University West Lafayette, grid.169077.e
  20. (20) Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, grid.418160.a
  21. (21) United States Department of Agriculture, Arid Land Agricultural Research Center, 85138, Maricopa, Arizona, USA
  22. (22) University of Giessen, grid.8664.c
  23. (23) King Abdulaziz University, grid.412125.1
  24. (24) Macau University of Science and Technology, grid.259384.1
  25. (25) University of Hong Kong, grid.194645.b
  26. (26) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU


Although eusociality evolved independently within several orders of insects, research into the molecular underpinnings of the transition towards social complexity has been confined primarily to Hymenoptera (for example, ants and bees). Here we sequence the genome and stage-specific transcriptomes of the dampwood termite Zootermopsis nevadensis (Blattodea) and compare them with similar data for eusocial Hymenoptera, to better identify commonalities and differences in achieving this significant transition. We show an expansion of genes related to male fertility, with upregulated gene expression in male reproductive individuals reflecting the profound differences in mating biology relative to the Hymenoptera. For several chemoreceptor families, we show divergent numbers of genes, which may correspond to the more claustral lifestyle of these termites. We also show similarities in the number and expression of genes related to caste determination mechanisms. Finally, patterns of DNA methylation and alternative splicing support a hypothesized epigenetic regulation of caste differentiation.


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