Recent advances in behavioral (epi)genetics in eusocial insects

Comzit Opachaloemphan, Hua Yan, Alexandra Leibholz, Claude Desplan, Danny Reinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Eusocial insects live in societies in which distinct family members serve specific roles in maintaining the colony and advancing the reproductive ability of a few select individuals. Given the genetic similarity of all colony members, the diversity of morphologies and behaviors is surprising. Social communication relies on pheromones and olfaction, as shown by mutants of orco, the universal odorant receptor coreceptor, and through electrophysiological analysis of neuronal responses to pheromones. Additionally, neurohormonal factors and epigenetic regulators play a key role in caste-specific behavior, such as foraging and caste switching. These studies start to allow an understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying social behavior and provide a technological foundation for future studies of eusocial insects. In this review, we highlight recent findings in eusocial insects that advance our understanding of genetic and epigenetic regulations of social behavior and provide perspectives on future studies using cutting-edge technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-510
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Genetics
StatePublished - Nov 23 2018


  • caste development
  • critical periods
  • epigenetics
  • neuroplasticity
  • odorant receptor
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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