The Role of Epigenetics in the Behavior and Aging of Ants

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Role of Epigenetics in the Behavior and Aging of Ants The Role of Epigenetics in the Behavior and Aging of Ants Epigenetic changes occur during normal development and tissue differentiation, and correlate with certain disease states in humans, such as cancer. Currently there is considerable effort underway to study these epigenetic changes and understand their import. In contrast, much less is understood about epigenetic changes that occur during aging and the epigenetic changes that may underlie behavior. The ant system provides unique opportunities to study behavioral and longevity differences between highly genetically related individuals. Our overall objective is to use ant societies as model systems to study epigenetic alterations that occur during organismal aging and that may specify non genetic distinctions in behavior. We will analyze several ant species for morph-specific differences in gene expression patterns and determine whether there are correlations between behavioral/age-specific gene expression patterns and histone post-translational modifications. Most importantly, the genes whose expression is altered during changes in behavior and aging will be isolated and the downstream effects of the altered expression studied. Newly developed high throughput DNA sequencing technology enables this investigation into questions concerning individual differences, which were previously not possible to this extent in ants. This proposal represents collaborations between laboratories that study chromatin regulatory mechanisms and epigenetics, and laboratories that study ant behavior. Our research plan involves: (1) determination using high-throughput methodology of nuclear DNA sequences of individuals representing behavioral/age morphs, (2) analysis of genome-wide gene expression differences between morphs using microarray technology and high-throughput sequencing, (3) examination of histone post-translational modifications representing possible epigenetic marks for specifying individual lifespan and behavioral variation and, (4) the mechanism(s) by which genes whose expression is altered affect downstream events resulting in aging (effects on metabolism) andlor altered behavior including establishment or degeneration of neuronal connections (synapses).
Effective start/end date10/15/0810/14/12


  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI): $1,292,740.00


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