Evolution and functionalization of vitellogenin genes in the termite Reticulitermes speratus

Hajime Yaguchi, Shogo Suzuki, Naoto Kanasaki, Yudai Masuoka, Ryutaro Suzuki, Ryouhei H. Suzuki, Yoshinobu Hayashi, Shuji Shigenobu, Kiyoto Maekawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Eusociality has been commonly observed in distinct animal lineages. The reproductive division of labor is a particular feature, achieved by the coordination between fertile and sterile castes within the same nest. The sociogenomic approach in social hymenopteran insects indicates that vitellogenin (Vg) has undergone neo-functionalization in sterile castes. Here, to know whether Vgs have distinct roles in nonreproductive castes in termites, we investigated the unique characteristics of Vgs in the rhinotermitid termite Reticulitermes speratus. The four Vgs were identified from R. speratus (RsVg1−4), and RsVg3 sequences were newly identified using the RACE method. Molecular phylogenetic analysis supported the monophyly of the four termite Vgs. Moreover, the termites Vg1−3 and Vg4 were positioned in two different clades. The dN/dS ratios indicated that the branch leading to the common ancestor of termite Vg4 was under weak purifying selection. Expression analyses among castes (reproductives, workers, and soldiers) and females (nymphs, winged alates, and queens) showed that RsVg1−3 was highly expressed in fertile queens. In contrast, RsVg4 was highly expressed in workers and female nonreproductives (nymphs and winged adults). Localization of RsVg4 messenger RNA was confirmed in the fat body of worker heads and abdomens. These results suggest that Vg genes are functionalized after gene duplication during termite eusocial transition and that Vg4 is involved in nonreproductive roles in termites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan


  • eusocial insects
  • gene expression
  • molecular evolution
  • reproductive division of labor
  • vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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