Gene E. Robinson

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Election Year: 2005
Primary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Section: 61, Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

Robinson uses the honey bee to discover neural, endocrine, molecular and genomic mechanisms of social behavior. Through comparative studies of these mechanisms in other social and solitary Hymenoptera, his work examines the evolution of social life. Honey bees live in highly structured societies comprising tens of thousands of individuals able to communicate and coordinate their activities. Individual bees perform complex behaviors, and switch between behavioral states in response to changes in the environment, the needs of the hive, and their own physiological state. An important goal is to discover molecular mechanisms, including changes in brain gene expression and neurochemical signaling, that couple these factors with changes in behavior. This work has led to the important insight that transcriptional activity in the bee brain is sensitive to the environment; changes in behavioral state are associated with sometimes dramatic changes in gene expression. The same dynamic regulation of brain gene expression has now been documented in many other animal species. Current research continues to examine the interplay among gene expression, environment, and social behavior, and explores whether the proximate mechanisms that facilitate these relationships represent a “molecular toolkit” for social life, shared across distantly related species.

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