Allele specific expression and methylation in the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris

The social hymenoptera are emerging as models for epigenetics. DNA methylation, the addition of a methyl group, is a common epigenetic marker. In mammals and flowering plants methylation affects allele specific expression. There is contradictory evidence for the role of methylation on allele specific expression in social insects. The aim of this paper is to investigate allele specific expression and monoallelic methylation in the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris. We found nineteen genes that were both monoallelically methylated and monoallelically expressed in a single bee. Fourteen of these genes express the hypermethylated allele, while the other five express the hypomethylated allele. We also searched for allele specific expression in twenty-nine published RNA-seq libraries. We found 555 loci with allele-specific expression. We discuss our results with reference to the functional role of methylation in gene expression in insects and in the as yet unquantified role of genetic cis effects in insect allele specific methylation and expression.