Differential gene expression is not required for facultative sex allocation: A transcriptome analysis of brain tissue in the parasitoid wasp nasonia vitripennis

Nicola Cook, Rebecca A. Boulton, Jade Green, Urmi Trivedi, Eran Tauber, Bart A. Pannebakker, Michael G. Ritchie, David M. Shuker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whole-transcriptome technologies have been widely used in behavioural genetics to identify genes associated with the performance of a behaviour and provide clues to its mechanistic basis. Here, we consider the genetic basis of sex allocation behaviour in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Female Nasonia facultatively vary their offspring sex ratio in line with Hamilton’s theory of local mate competition (LMC). A single female or ‘foundress’ laying eggs on a patch will lay just enough sons to fertilize her daughters. As the number of ‘foundresses’ laying eggs on a patch increases (and LMC declines), females produce increasingly male-biased sex ratios. Phenotypic studies have revealed the cues females use to estimate the level of LMC their sons will experience, but our understanding of the genetics underlying sex allocation is limited. Here, we exposed females to three foundress number conditions, i.e. three LMC conditions, and allowed them to oviposit. mRNA was extracted from only the heads of these females to target the brain tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171718
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Ethics. There was no requirement to seek ethical approval to carry out the work described above. However, the use of insects in the above experiments was kept to a minimum. Data accessibility. Raw sequence reads and processed data are available from the Gene Expression Omnibus hosted by NCBI (Accession: GSE105796). Authors’ contributions. N.C., E.T., B.A.P., M.G.R. and D.M.S. conceived of the study. N.C., R.A.B. and J.G. carried out the behavioural experiments and harvested the insects for RNA extraction. N.C. carried out the molecular work. U.T. processed the sequence reads, mapping and annotation. N.C. and U.T. carried out differential expression analyses. N.C. and D.M.S. drafted the manuscript. All authors gave final approval for publication. Competing interests. We have no competing interests to declare. Funding. This work was supported by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant NE/J024481/1. D.M.S. was previously funded by a NERC Advanced Research Fellowship. B.A.P. was funded by the Netherlands Genomics Initiative (NGI Zenith no. 935.11.04). U.T. and Edinburgh Genomics are partly supported through core grants from NERC (R8/ H10/56), MRC (MR/K001744/1) and BBSRC (BB/J004243/1). R.A.B. was funded by a NERC Doctoral Training Grant. Acknowledgements. We are extremely grateful to Jack Werren for his support and advice during our long-term analysis of the genetics and genomics of sex allocation in Nasonia.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors.


  • Behavioural genetics
  • Local mate competition
  • Nasonia
  • Parasitoid
  • Sex allocation
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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