Termite genomes have been sequenced in at least five species from four different families. Genome-based transcriptome analyses have identified large numbers of protein-coding genes with caste-specific expression patterns. These genes include those involved in caste-specific morphologies and roles, for example high fecundity and longevity in reproductives. Some caste-specific expressed genes belong to multi-gene families, and their genetic architecture and expression profiles indicate they have evolved via tandem gene duplication. Candidate regulatory mechanisms of caste-specific expression include epigenetic regulation (e.g. histone modification and non-coding RNA) and diversification of transcription factors and cis-regulatory elements. We review current knowledge in the area of termite sociogenomics, focussing on the evolution and regulation of caste-specific expressed genes, and discuss future research directions.
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