The study of social breeding systems is often gene focused, and the field of insect sociobiology has been successful at assimilating tools and techniques from molecular biology. One common output from sociogenomic studies is a gene list. Gene lists are readily generated from microarray, RNA sequencing, or other molecular screens that typically aim to prioritize genes based on the differences in their expression. Gene lists, however, are often unsatisfying because the information they provide is simply tabular and does not explain how genes interact with each other, or how genetic interactions change in real time under social or environmental circumstances. Here, we promote a view that is relatively common to molecular systems biology, where gene lists are converted into gene networks that better describe the functional connections that regulate behavioral traits. We present a narrative related to honeybee worker sterility to show how network analysis can be used to reprioritize candidate genes based on connectivity rather than their freestanding expression values. Networks can also reveal multigene modules, motifs, clusters or other system-wide properties that might not be apparent from an ab initio list. We argue that because network analyses are not restricted to “genes” as nodes, their implementation can potentially connect multiple levels of biological organization into a single, progressively complex study system.
Faragalla, Kyrillos & Chernyshova, Anna & Gallo, Anthony & Thompson, Graham. (2018). From gene list to gene network: Recognizing functional connections that regulate behavioral traits. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B Molecular and Developmental Evolution. 10.1002/jez.b.22829.