Cytosine modifications in the honey bee (Apis mellifera) worker genome

Erik M K Rasmussen, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Epigenetic changes enable genomes to respond to changes in the environment, such as altered nutrition, activity, or social setting. Epigenetic modifications, thereby, provide a source of phenotypic plasticity in many species. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) uses nutritionally sensitive epigenetic control mechanisms in the development of the royal caste (queens) and the workers. The workers are functionally sterile females that can take on a range of distinct physiological and/or behavioral phenotypes in response to environmental changes. Honey bees have a wide repertoire of epigenetic mechanisms which, as in mammals, include cytosine methylation, hydroxymethylated cytosines, together with the enzymatic machinery responsible for these cytosine modifications. Current data suggests that honey bees provide an excellent system for studying the "social repertoire" of the epigenome. In this review, we elucidate what is known so far about the honey bee epigenome and its mechanisms. Our discussion includes what may distinguish honey bees from other model animals, how the epigenome can influence worker behavioral task separation, and how future studies can answer central questions about the role of the epigenome in social behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2015


  • 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
  • Demethylation
  • Honey bee
  • Methylation
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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