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Molecular mechanisms of genomic imprinting in an insect

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Genomic imprinting is a phylogenetically widespread phenomenon, and genes have been shown to be imprinted in mammals, plants, and fungi, as well as insects. In mammals and flowering plants, genomic imprinting is associated with both DNA methylation and histone methylation and these epigenetic markers are established in the germline of parents and are preserved during development. We have discovered genes which show parent of origin allele specific expression. This is the usual definition of genomic imprinting. For the sake of brevity and clarity, for this proposal we will refer to these genes as imprinted. However, saying a gene is imprinted usually implies a particular type of molecular machinery, e.g. promoter methylation in mammals. We have no clear molecular model for how genomic imprinting would work in an insect. The overall aim of this project is to begin to search for the molecular machinery of this phenomenon in insects. We will test the hypothesis that either DNA methylation or histone modifications or both are associated with genomic imprinting in the bumblebee.

In order to elucidate the mechanisms of genomic imprinting in bumblebees we need to deliver three aims:

1. to identify genes that show parent of origin allele specific expression in different brain regions.
2. to identify genes that show parent of origin allele specific methylation in different brain regions.
3. to identify genes that show parent of origin allele specific histone modifications in different brain regions.

The proposed project will use next generation sequencing and reciprocally crossed bumblebee colonies to elucidate the mechanisms of genomic imprinting. The Mallon lab has pioneered the study of epigenetics in this system.

We are now at the dawn of a very exciting time having the extraordinary opportunity to dissect the epigenetic code and genomic imprinting with unprecedented detail and from both mechanistic and evolutionary points of view using population genetics and molecular biology approaches. Understanding the mechanisms of genomic imprinting in this system will allow us to ask deeper questions of genomic imprinting’s evolutionary origin, its role in this important pollinator’s biology and the commonalities and differences of genomic imprinting in different systems.

UK/EU applicants only.

Entry requirements:
Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.
The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable:

How to apply:
Please refer carefully to the application guidance and apply using the online application link at

Project / Funding Enquiries:
Application enquiries to
Closing date for applications: Sunday 12th January 2020


1. Marshall, H., Lonsdale, Z.N., & Mallon, E.B. (2019) Methylation and Gene Expression Differences Between Reproductive Castes of Bumblebee Workers. Evolution Letters. Early view.

2. Pegoraro, M., Marshall, H., Lonsdale, Z.N., & Mallon, E.B. (2017) Do social insects support Haig's kin theory for the evolution of genomic imprinting? Epigenetics 12(9) pp 725 - 742

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