Data from: A gene associated with social immunity in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides
Palmer, William et al. (2016), Data from: A gene associated with social immunity in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6n4fm
Some group-living species exhibit social immunity, where the immune response of one individual can protect others in the group from infection. In burying beetles this is part of parental care. Larvae feed on vertebrate carcasses which their parents smear with exudates that inhibit microbial growth. We have sequenced the transcriptome of the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides and identified six genes that encode lysozymes – a type of antimicrobial enzyme that has previously been implicated in social immunity in burying beetles. When females start breeding and producing antimicrobial anal exudates, we found that the expression of one of these genes was increased by ~1000 times to become one of the most abundant transcripts in the transcriptome. Females varied considerably in the antimicrobial properties of their anal exudates, and this was strongly correlated with the expression of this lysozyme. We conclude that we have likely identified a gene encoding a key effector molecule in social immunity, and that it was recruited during evolution from a function in personal immunity.