Work Package 2 (ESR 3)


General details

University of Groningen, NL

Prof L. Beukeboom and Dr L. van de Zande


Other partners involved
University of Leicester (UK)
University of Wuerzburg (DE)
Actual Analytics (DE)


  • Actual (UK): Software development & training (2 months, year 1/2)
  • University of Leicester (UK): Natural diapause method (1 month, year 1/2),
  • CNRS: Neuronal oscillators and behaviour (3 months, year 2/3)


• Determine the role of clock genes in Nasonia ultradian rhythm and courtship
• Investigate genetic variation in the genetic architecture of Nasonia circadian rhythm


• Establish genetic variation for biological timing in field-lines and selected and unselected laboratory lines in QTL, SNP based GWAS and candidate gene approaches.
• Functional validation of clock genes in ultradian and circadian rhythm by RNAi and in situ analysis of gene expression and protein abundance (ICC)


Natural variation and genetic architecture of biological timing: ultradian/courtship behaviour
The parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis has a cosmopolitan distribution and many of its life history traits show adaptation to local environments. We have shown a clear, but complex, genetic basis for diapause induction, courtship behaviour and (interspecific) mate discrimination. All these traits involve time-keeping and detection of fluctuating environmental factors such as temperature. The evolution of these traits may be heavily influenced by the adaptive potential of clock-genes. In this project we intend to unravel the connection between these adaptive life history traits and the time-keeping genes of Nasonia by using field-lines from different latitudes as well as selected and unselected laboratory lines. We will use Quantitative Trait Analysis, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) based Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) and candidate gene approaches to uncover the genetic architecture of these traits. In particular, this project will aim at answering the following questions:

  1. Which clock-genes are involved in the genetic networks that underlie diapause induction, male courtship and (inter)specific mate discrimination?
  2. How do these networks overlap both with respect to these clock-genes and other genes?
  3. How is clinal variation in diapause induction reflected in the variation of (clock) genes within the circadian genetic network?

For this purpose an additional set of lines will be collected along a comparable latitudinal gradient in North America, which has the same day-length variation combined with a different temperature gradient. This will allow independent investigation of temperature and day-length variation on clock gene evolution. Functional validation of clock genes in life history traits will be performed by RNAi and in situ analysis of gene expression and protein abundance (antibody based).  In addition, knockdown will also be used to assess any effects of clock genes on an ultradian rhythm in courtship. It is known that clock genes can affect the timing of short-term rhythmic oscillations in Drosophila and Bactrocera courtship elements. These activities complement those in WP1/3/5 and diapause candidate genes implicated in Drosophila will also be examined in Nasonia an dvice-versa.

Results and milestones

  1. Month 12 Project plan & personal development plan for individual training requirements
  2. Month 30 Field-lines phenotypic characterization; plans for publication.
  3. Month 40 Field-lines genetic characterization; first publication submitted.
  4. Month 44 Gene identifications; second publication submitted

Synergies, Risks & Exploitation

The interactions with partners greatly expand the technological repertoire of the Groningen laboratory both in biological methods and in the automated imaging field. Results can be used by SMEs to enhance field trials and increase production of sterile males.

See more Work Packages in Research Area A