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Creators/Authors contains: "Robinson, Gene E"

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  1. Abstract

    Gut microbiomes are increasingly recognized for mediating diverse biological aspects of their hosts, including complex behavioral phenotypes. Although many studies have reported that experimental disruptions to the gut microbial community result in atypical host behavior, studies that address how gut microbes contribute to adaptive behavioral trait variation are rare. Eusocial insects represent a powerful model to test this, because of their simple gut microbiota and complex division of labor characterized by colony-level variation in behavioral phenotypes. Although previous studies report correlational differences in gut microbial community associated with division of labor, here, we provide evidence that gut microbes play a causal role in defining differences in foraging behavior between European honey bees (Apis mellifera). We found that gut microbial community structure differed between hive-based nurse bees and bees that leave the hive to forage for floral resources. These differences were associated with variation in the abundance of individual microbes, including Bifidobacterium asteroides, Bombilactobacillus mellis, and Lactobacillus melliventris. Manipulations of colony demography and individual foraging experience suggested that differences in gut microbial community composition were associated with task experience. Moreover, single-microbe inoculations with B. asteroides, B. mellis, and L. melliventris caused effects on foraging intensity. These results demonstrate that gut microbes contribute to division of labor in a social insect, and support a role of gut microbes in modulating host behavioral trait variation.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 27, 2025
  2. For social animals, the genotypes of group members affect the social environment, and thus individual behavior, often indirectly. We used genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to determine the influence of individual vs. group genotypes on aggression in honey bees. Aggression in honey bees arises from the coordinated actions of colony members, primarily nonreproductive “soldier” bees, and thus, experiences evolutionary selection at the colony level. Here, we show that individual behavior is influenced by colony environment, which in turn, is shaped by allele frequency within colonies. Using a population with a range of aggression, we sequenced individual whole genomes and looked for genotype–behavior associations within colonies in a common environment. There were no significant correlations between individual aggression and specific alleles. By contrast, we found strong correlations between colony aggression and the frequencies of specific alleles within colonies, despite a small number of colonies. Associations at the colony level were highly significant and were very similar among both soldiers and foragers, but they covaried with one another. One strongly significant association peak, containing an ortholog of the Drosophila sensory gene dpr4 on linkage group (chromosome) 7, showed strong signals of both selection and admixture during the evolution of gentleness in a honey bee population. We thus found links between colony genetics and group behavior and also, molecular evidence for group-level selection, acting at the colony level. We conclude that group genetics dominates individual genetics in determining the fatal decision of honey bees to sting. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Social challenges like territorial intrusions evoke behavioral responses in widely diverging species. Recent work has showed that evolutionary “toolkits”—genes and modules with lineage‐specific variations but deep conservation of function—participate in the behavioral response to social challenge. Here, we develop a multispecies computational‐experimental approach to characterize such a toolkit at a systems level. Brain transcriptomic responses to social challenge was probed via RNA‐seq profiling in three diverged species—honey bees, mice and three‐spined stickleback fish—following a common methodology, allowing fair comparisons across species. Data were collected from multiple brain regions and multiple time points after social challenge exposure, achieving anatomical and temporal resolution substantially greater than previous work. We developed statistically rigorous analyses equipped to find homologous functional groups among these species at the levels of individual genes, functional and coexpressed gene modules, and transcription factor subnetworks. We identified six orthogroups involved in response to social challenge, including groups represented by mouse genesNpas4andNr4a1, as well as common modulation of systems such as transcriptional regulators, ion channels, G‐protein‐coupled receptors and synaptic proteins. We also identified conserved coexpression modules enriched for mitochondrial fatty acid metabolism and heat shock that constitute the shared neurogenomic response. Our analysis suggests a toolkit wherein nuclear receptors, interacting with chaperones, induce transcriptional changes in mitochondrial activity, neural cytoarchitecture and synaptic transmission after social challenge. It shows systems‐level mechanisms that have been repeatedly co‐opted during evolution of analogous behaviors, thus advancing the genetic toolkit concept beyond individual genes.

     
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