Social hymenoptera, the honey bee (Apis mellifera) in particular, have ultra-high crossover rates and a large degree of intra-genomic variation in crossover rates. Aligned with haploid genomics of males, this makes them a potential model for examining the causes and consequences of crossing over. To address why social insects have such high crossing-over rates and the consequences of this, we constructed a high-resolution recombination atlas by sequencing 55 individuals from three colonies with an average marker density of 314 bp/marker.
We find crossing over to be especially high in proximity to genes upregulated in worker brains, but see no evidence for a coupling with immune-related functioning. We detect only a low rate of non-crossover gene conversion, contrary to current evidence. This is in striking contrast to the ultrahigh crossing-over rate, almost double that previously estimated from lower resolution data. We robustly recover the predicted intragenomic correlations between crossing over and both population level diversity and GC content, which could be best explained as indirect and direct consequences of crossing over, respectively.
Our data are consistent with the view that diversification of worker behavior, but not immune function, is a driver of the high crossing-over rate in bees. While we see both high diversity and high GC content associated with high crossing-over rates, our estimate of the low non-crossover rate demonstrates that high non-crossover rates are not a necessary consequence of high recombination rates.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0566-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.