Application of molecular genomics in addressing questions on termite biology
  Key Words  
  Genomics, sociogenomics, Isoptera, hexamerin, RNA interference, juvenile hormone
  M.E. Scharf, X.G. Zhou and G.W. Bennett
  In termites, the mechanisms underlying caste differentiation and related physiological processes have remained elusive. To address this problem, we undertook a genomic research program that uses the common U.S. termite Reticulitermes flavipes Kollar as a model. These studies have allowed us to uncover a number of genes that are expressed during caste differentiation. Additionally, this genomic approach has also allowed us to identify genes that are differentially expressed among castes. To date, we have identified > 50 differentially expressed genes among workers, nymphs, presoldiers and soldiers that appear to have major impacts on either caste differentiation or caste-specific biology. In this review, summaries are provided for termite genes that have been identified and sequenced, how these genes relate to termite biology, and results of functional studies connecting individual genes (and proteins) to specific biological/developmental processes. Through these studies has come an understanding of termite biology, biochemistry, physiology and caste differentiation that once was not approachable, even through decades of pre-genomic research.