Genome sequencing of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera), a model for the biology and evolution of eusocial behavior, has revealed unusual genome compositional characteristics, including a low but heterogeneous GC content, bimodal GC content distribution, and a biased tendency of genes to be located in low GC regions. In this dissertation, we sought to determine whether those features are specific to Apis or shared with other insects and the biological meaning of those features. Chapter 1 reviews the major concepts that tie my dissertation research together, highlighting the importance of recombination, GC composition, and their relationship to the evolution of eusociality. In chapter 2, we analyzed the distributions of GC contents in GC compositional domains among twenty-seven insect species with different levels of social complexity to study whether the striking features previously known in the A. mellifera genome are common among Hymenoptera or other eusocial insects. In chapter 3, we investigated the biological context of the GC content distribution by partitioning the GC compositional domains into groups based on GC composition and then performed Gene Ontology (GO) analysis on the gene content of domains within the groups. Chapter 4 investigated the compositional features of the protein-coding content of the genome of Aculeata species (ants, bees, and wasps) by analyzing GC compositional domains in the syntenic regions between their orthologs.
Advisor: Dr. Christine Elsik
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