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Imprinting and ploidy in a social insect

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project asks how can imprinted genes exist in a haplodiploid organism. Genomic imprinting is when the expression of an allele is dependent on the parent it came from. Genomic imprinting is an important area of research in plant breeding and in evolutionary biology and has relevance to some human cancers and developmental syndromes.

Recently, as part of a current NERC funded research grant and a CENTA1 PhD, we have discovered imprinted genes in bumblebees (see Figure 1). This is a major finding and opens the door to multiple other questions. Bumblebees are haplodiploid, that is fertilised eggs (diploids) become females. Unfertilised eggs (haploids) become males. This leads to a paradox; genomic imprinting restricts expression of certain genes to one parental allele. As a consequence, both maternal and paternal chromosomes are required for successful development. How can males function, given that we would predict a number of genes to be imprinted and therefore non-functional?

A corollary of this, through a quirk of inbreeding in bumblebees, is that diploid males are easy to produce. How do these animals function given that they presumably have doubled the number of alleles compared to their haploid brothers? Previous work suggests that they have similar expression levels to haploid males, but what about the imprinted genes in these diploids?

A final area of interest is imprinting at different stages. Our data shows imprinting in the adult bee. When does this arise? Are different genes imprinted at different stages?

Entry requirements

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.


Project Enquiries: Eamonn Mallon,

Funding Enquiries:

How to apply

Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at and use the Genetics Apply button to submit your PhD application. Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.

In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship

Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.


Available for UK and EU applicants only

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility:

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number of fully funded studentships available to the best UK and EU candidates available as part of the NERC DTP CENTA consortium.

For more details of the CENTA consortium please see the CENTA website: View Website.

The studentship includes a 3.5 year tuition fee waiver at UK/EU rates

An annual tax free stipend (For 2019/20 this is currently £15,009)

Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000

Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: View Website


• Hua Yan, Roberto Bonasio, Daniel F. Simola, Jürgen Liebig, Shelley L. Berger, and Danny Reinberg (2015)DNA Methylation in Social Insects: How Epigenetics Can Control Behavior and Longevity.. Annual Review of Entomology, Vol. 60: 435 -452

• M Pegoraro, H Marshall, ZN Lonsdale, EB Mallon (2017) Do social insects support Haig's kin theory for the evolution of genomic imprinting? Epigenetics 12 (9),725-742

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