Eusocial insects as emerging models for behavioural epigenetics

Nat Rev Genet. 2014 Oct;15(10):677-88. doi: 10.1038/nrg3787. Epub 2014 Sep 9.


Understanding the molecular basis of how behavioural states are established, maintained and altered by environmental cues is an area of considerable and growing interest. Epigenetic processes, including methylation of DNA and post-translational modification of histones, dynamically modulate activity-dependent gene expression in neurons and can therefore have important regulatory roles in shaping behavioural responses to environmental cues. Several eusocial insect species - with their unique displays of behavioural plasticity due to age, morphology and social context - have emerged as models to investigate the genetic and epigenetic underpinnings of animal social behaviour. This Review summarizes recent studies in the epigenetics of social behaviour and offers perspectives on emerging trends and prospects for establishing genetic tools in eusocial insects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genomic Instability
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Animal*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Transcription, Genetic