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Evolutionary variation in gene expression is associated with dimorphism in eusocial vespid wasps


Brendan G. Hunt, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 310 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA. Tel.: +404 8311810; fax: +404-894-0519; e-mail:


Phenotypic diversity is frequently generated by differences in gene expression. In this study, we addressed the relationship between homology in gene expression and phenotype among four species of eusocial wasps. Specifically, we investigated the evolution of caste-specific and sex-specific gene expression patterns associated with caste polyphenisms and sexual dimorphisms. We also identified several genes with functions relevant to their phenotype-specific roles. Our results suggest that gene expression profiles associated with caste polyphenisms may evolve rapidly relative to those associated with sexes. Thus, caste-biased genes may undergo less regulatory constraint or be subject to greater neutral variation in expression than sex-biased genes.

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