Transcriptomic and Functional Analyses of Phenotypic Plasticity in a Higher Termite, Macrotermes barneyi Light

Pengdong Sun, Ganghua Li, Jianbo Jian, Long Liu, Junhui Chen, Shuxin Yu, Huan Xu, Chaoliang Lei, Xuguo Zhou, Qiuying Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Eusocial termites have a complex caste system, which leads to the division of labor. Previous studies offered some insight into the caste differentiation in lower termites; however, few studies were focusing on the molecular mechanisms of higher termites with sophisticated societies. Comparative transcriptomic analyses of five immature castes of a higher termite, Macrotermes barneyi Light, suggest that phenotypic plasticity is modulated by an array of transcriptional changes, including differentially expressed genes (e.g., caste-biased genes Vtg and TnC), co-expression networks (e.g., genes associated with nymph reproduction), and alternative splicing (e.g., events related to muscle development in presoldiers). Transcriptional (RT-PCR and RT-qPCR) and functional (in vivo RNAi) validation studies reveal multiple molecular mechanisms contributing to the phenotypic plasticity in eusocial termites. Molecular mechanisms governing the phenotypic plasticity in M. barneyi could be a rule rather than an exception in the evolution of sociality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number964
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - Oct 4 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2019 Sun, Li, Jian, Liu, Chen, Yu, Xu, Lei, Zhou and Huang.


  • eclosion
  • gene expression
  • higher termites
  • mobility
  • transcriptomic analyses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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