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Self-organisation of plasticity and specialisation in a primitively social insect

Sumner, Seirian; Patalano, Solenn; Wolf, Reik; Stefan, Rulands; (2022) Self-organisation of plasticity and specialisation in a primitively social insect. Cell Systems , 13 (9) 768-779.e4. 10.1016/j.cels.2022.08.002. Green open access

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Abstract

Biological systems have the capacity to not only build and robustly maintain complex structures but also to rapidly break up and rebuild such structures. Here, using primitive societies of Polistes wasps, we show that both robust specialization and rapid plasticity are emergent properties of multi-scale dynamics. We combine theory with experiments that, after perturbing the social structure by removing the queen, correlate time-resolved multi-omics with video recordings. We show that the queen-worker dimorphism relies on the balance between the development of a molecular queen phenotype in all insects and colony-scale inhibition of this phenotype via asymmetric interactions. This allows Polistes to be stable against intrinsic perturbations of molecular states while reacting plastically to extrinsic cues affecting the whole society. Long-term stability of the social structure is reinforced by dynamic DNA methylation. Our study provides a general principle of how both specialization and plasticity can be achieved in biological systems. A record of this paper’s transparent peer review process is included in the supplemental information.

Type: Article
Title: Self-organisation of plasticity and specialisation in a primitively social insect
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cels.2022.08.002
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cels.2022.08.002
Language: English
Additional information: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. under a Creative Commons license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: biophysics, phenotypic plasticity, statistical physics, multi-omics, behavioural ecology
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10149616
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