Ants, Genomes & Evolution

@ Queen Mary University London

Research

Evolutionary genomics of social insects. Extensive theoretical work has explained how and why complex societies evolve. However, only little is known about the genes and molecular mechanisms responsible for social phenotypes. We have been identifying genes and mechanisms involved in the evolution of insect societies using modern genomics tools (Illumina, RNAseq, RADseq...). For example we recently:

  • sequenced and analyzed the genome of the invasive red fire ant Solenopsis invicta (PNAS 2011)
  • discovered that a fundamental social trait in this species (how many queens are accepted in the colony) is determined by variants of a social chromosome (Nature 2013).
  • described the gene expression changes that occur in a virgin queen when she is given the opportunity of replacing her mother (Mol Ecol 2010).

We are interested in themes including the genetics of behavior, the interplay between social evolution and genome evolution, and the molecular mechanisms responsible for differences between castes.

Genomics & Bioinformatics for emerging model organisms. The recent 10,000-fold drop in the cost of DNA sequencing means that any lab can sequence anything - and lots of it. This brings exciting opportunities but also new challenges. We develop innovative tools and approaches to facilitate modern biological work on emerging model organisms. For example:

  • BLAST is the most commonly used bioinformatics tool. But setting it up for private data and using it is counter-intuitive. We're developing SequenceServer to make BLAST easy to use.
  • Sequencing genomes has become straightforward. But you quickly realize that most gene predictions need to be inspected and many need to be manually fixed before performing analyses. This makes multi-species, multi-gene analyses very challenging. We are developing infrastructure to obtain help for this using crowd-sourcing.

Contact

  • y.wurm [at] qmul.ac.uk
  • @yannick__
  • yannickwurm
  • +44 20 7882 3049
  • 5.03A, Fogg Building, Organismal Biology Division, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Mile End Road, E1 4NS London, UK.

[Larger Map & Local Directions]

  • Joining the lab. We are recruiting a postdoc for population genomics and transcriptomics in pollinators. Projects in the lab involve population genomics, comparative analyses, bioinformatics, population genetics, molecular biology, software development, and/or behavioral work. If you want to come do a Postdoc, a PhD or an internship (min. 5 months), please provide by email a CV, contact info of references and a short project proposal.

We are grateful for the support from our recent funders: funding bodies

Publications See also [Google Scholar] & [Software Tools]

  1. Social chromosome variants differentially affect queen determination and the survival of workers in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. (2014). SD Buechel, Y Wurm, L Keller Molecular Ecology 23 (20), 5117-5127
  2. Convergent genetic architecture underlies social organization in ants. (2014). J Purcell, A Brelsford, Y Wurm, N Perrin, M Chapuisat Current Biology [DOI]
  3. Discovery and molecular characterization of an ambisense densovirus from South American populations of Solenopsis invicta. (2013) SM Valles, DW Shoemaker, Y Wurm, CA Strong, L Varone, JJ Becnel, et al Biological Control 67, 431-39 [DOI]
  4. Vitellogenin underwent subfunctionalization to acquire caste and behavioral specific expression in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus. (2013) M Corona, R Libbrecht, Y Wurm, O Riba-Grognuz, RA Studer, L Keller PLoS Genetics 9 (8), e1003730 [DOI] [PDF]
  5. Sociogenomics of cooperation and conflict during colony founding in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. (2013) F Manfredini, O Riba-Grognuz, Y Wurm, L Keller, DW Shoemaker, et al PLoS Genetics 9 (8), e1003633 [DOI]
  6. Comparative genomics of chemosensory protein genes reveals rapid evolution and positive selection in ant-specific duplicates. (2013) J Kulmuni, Y Wurm, P Pamilo Heredity 110 (6), 538-547 [DOI] [PDF]
  7. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. (2013) J Wang*°, Y Wurm*°, M Nipitwattanaphon, O Riba-Grognuz, YC Huang, et al Nature 493 (7434), 664-668 [DOI] [PDF] 23x
  8. Duplication and concerted evolution in a master sex determiner under balancing selection.. (2013) E Privman, Y Wurm°, L Keller° Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280, 1471-2954 [DOI]
  9. Social insect genomes exhibit dramatic evolution in gene composition and regulation while preserving regulatory features linked to sociality.. Genome Research gr.155408.113 [DOI] 17x
  10. The molecular clockwork of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. (2012) KK Ingram, A Kutowoi, Y Wurm, DW Shoemaker, R Meier, G Bloch PloS One 7 (11), e45715 [DOI]
  11. Epigenetics: the making of ant castes. (2012) A Chittka, Y Wurm, L Chittka Current Biology 22 (19), R835-R838 [DOI]
  12. Visualization and quality assessment of de novo genome assemblies. (2011) O Riba-Grognuz°, L Keller, L Falquet, I Xenarios, Y Wurm° Bioinformatics 27 (24), 3425-3426 [DOI] [PDF]
  13. The genomic impact of 100 million years of social evolution in seven ant species. Trends in Genetics 28 (1), 14-21 [DOI] [PDF] 31x
  14. Relaxed selection is a precursor to the evolution of phenotypic plasticity. (2011) BG Hunt, L Ometto, Y Wurm, DW Shoemaker, VY Soojin, L Keller, et al Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108 (38), 15936-15941 [DOI] [PDF] 35x
  15. The genome of the leaf-cutting ant Acromyrmex echinatior suggests key adaptations to advanced social life and fungus farming. (2011) S Nygaard, G Zhang, M Schiott, C Li, Y Wurm, H Hu, J Zhou, L Ji, F Qiu, et al Genome Research 21 (8), 1339-1348 [DOI] [PDF] 70x
  16. The genome of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. (2011) Y Wurm°, J Wang, O Riba-Grognuz, M Corona, S Nygaard, BG Hunt, et al Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108 (14), 5679 [DOI] [PDF] 123x
  17. Odorant binding proteins of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta: an example of the problems facing the analysis of widely divergent proteins. (2011) D Gotzek°, HM Robertson, Y Wurm, DW Shoemaker PloS One 6 (1), e16289 [DOI] 12x
  18. Behind the scenes of an ant genome project. (2011) Y Wurm Formosan Entomologist 31 (2), 149-56
  19. Parasitoid wasps: from natural history to genomic studies. (2010) Y Wurm, L Keller Current Biology 20 (5), R242-R244 [DOI]
  20. Changes in reproductive roles are associated with changes in gene expression in fire ant queens. (2010) Y Wurm°, J Wang, L Keller Molecular Ecology 19 (6), 1200-1211 [DOI] [PDF] 19x
  21. Fourmidable: a database for ant genomics. (2009) Y Wurm°, P Uva, F Ricci, J Wang, S Jemielity, C Iseli, L Falquet, L Keller BMC Genomics 10 (1), 5 [DOI] [PDF] 21x
  22. Sociogenetics of fire ants. (2009) Y Wurm PhD Thesis; University of Lausanne Switzerland
  23. Behavioral Genomics: A, Bee, C, G, T. (2007) Y Wurm, J Wang, L Keller Current Biology 17 (2), R51-R53 [DOI] [PDF]
  24. An annotated cDNA library and microarray for large-scale gene-expression studies in the ant Solenopsis invicta. (2007) J Wang, S Jemielity, P Uva, Y Wurm, J Graeff, L Keller Genome Biology 8 (1), R9 [PDF] 50x
  25. Cryostock a software for cell culture management. (2005) M Zerlin, L Greiffenberg, Y Wurm, I Winkler, D Kreusel, S Toemoe, et al Animal Cell Technology Meets Genomics 397-400 [DOI]

Solenopsis invicta workers defend the fire ant genome against a Pogonomyrmex rugosus harvester ant worker.
© Romain Libbrecht & Yannick Wurm.

Fire ant genome