Characterization of genomic variants associated with scout and recruit behavioral castes in honey bees using whole-genome sequencing

Bruce R. Southey, Ping Zhu, Morgan K. Carr-Markell, Zhengzheng S. Liang, Amro Zayed, Ruiqiang Li, Gene E. Robinson, Sandra L. Rodriguez-Zas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among forager honey bees, scouts seek new resources and return to the colony, enlisting recruits to collect these resources. Differentially expressed genes between these behaviors and genetic variability in scouting phenotypes have been reported. Whole-genome sequencing of 44 Apis mellifera scouts and recruits was undertaken to detect variants and further understand the genetic architecture underlying the behavioral differences between scouts and recruits. The median coverage depth in recruits and scouts was 10.01 and 10.7 X, respectively. Representation of bacterial species among the unmapped reads reflected a more diverse microbiome in scouts than recruits. Overall, 1,412,705 polymorphic positions were analyzed for associations with scouting behavior, and 212 significant (p-value < 0.0001) associations with scouting corresponding to 137 positions were detected. Most frequent putative transcription factor binding sites proximal to significant variants included Broad-complex 4, Broad-complex 1, Hunchback, and CF2-II. Three variants associated with scouting were located within coding regions of ncRNAs including one codon change (LOC102653644) and 2 frameshift indels (LOC102654879 and LOC102655256). Significant variants were also identified on the 5'UTR of membrin, and 3'UTRs of laccase 2 and diacylglycerol kinase theta. The 60 significant variants located within introns corresponded to 39 genes and most of these positions were > 1000 bp apart from each other. A number of these variants were mapped to ncRNA LOC100578102, solute carrier family 12 member 6-like gene, and LOC100576965 (meprin and TRAF-C homology domain containing gene). Functional categories represented among the genes corresponding to significant variants included: neuronal function, exoskeleton, immune response, salivary gland development, and enzymatic food processing. These categories offer a glimpse into the molecular support to the behaviors of scouts and recruits. The level of association between genomic variants and scouting behavior observed in this study may be linked to the honey bee's genomic plasticity and fluidity of transition between castes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0146430
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of genomic variants associated with scout and recruit behavioral castes in honey bees using whole-genome sequencing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this