DNA methylation in social insects: How epigenetics can control behavior and longevity

Hua Yan, Roberto Bonasio, Daniel F. Simola, Juergen Liebig, Shelley L. Berger, Danny Reinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


In eusocial insects, genetically identical individuals can exhibit striking differences in behavior and longevity. The molecular basis of such phenotypic plasticity is of great interest to the scientific community. DNA methylation, as well as other epigenetic signals, plays an important role in modulating gene expression and can therefore establish, sustain, and alter organism-level phenotypes, including behavior and life span. Unlike DNA methylation in mammals, DNA methylation in insects, including eusocial insects, is enriched in gene bodies of actively expressed genes. Recent investigations have revealed the important role of gene body methylation in regulating gene expression in response to intrinsic and environmental factors. In this review, we summarize recent advances in DNA methylation research and discuss its significance in our understanding of the epigenetic underpinnings of behavior and longevity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-452
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 7 2015


  • Alternative splicing
  • Environment
  • Gene body methylation
  • Plasticity
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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