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A combined RAD-Seq and WGS approach reveals the genomic basis of yellow colour variation in bumble bee Bombus terrestris

By Sarthok Rasique Rahman, Jonathan Cnaani, Lisa N. Kinch, Nick V. Grishin, Heather M. Hines

Posted 12 Aug 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.12.248740

Background : In the model bumble bee species B. terrestris , both males and females exhibit black coloration on the third thoracic and first metasomal segments. We discovered a fortuitous lab-generated mutant in which this typical black coloration is replaced by yellow. As this same color variant is found in several sister lineages to B. terrestris within the Bombus s.s. subgenus, this could be a result of ancestral allele sorting. Results : Utilizing a combination of RAD-Seq and whole-genome re-sequencing approaches, we localized the color-generating variant to a single SNP in the protein-coding sequence of a homeobox transcription factor, cut . Sanger sequencing confirmed fixation of this SNP between wildtype and yellow mutants. Protein domain analysis revealed this SNP to generate an amino acid change (Ala38Pro) that modifies the conformation of coiled-coil structural elements which lie outside the characteristic DNA binding domains. We found all Hymenopterans including B. terrestris sister lineages possess the non-mutant allele, indicating different mechanism(s) are involved in the same black to yellow transition in nature. Conclusions : Cut is a highly pleiotropic gene important for multiple facets of development, yet this mutation generated no noticeable external phenotypic effects outside of setal characteristics. Reproductive capacity was observed to be reduced, however, with queens being less likely to mate and produce female offspring, in a manner similar to workers. Our research implicates a novel developmental player in pigmentation, and potentially caste as well, thus contributing to a better understanding of the evolution of diversity in both of these processes. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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