evolutionary antagonism drives allelic expression bias in the social chromosome
Supergene regions maintain alleles of multiple genes in tight linkage through suppressed recombination. Despite their importance in determining complex phenotypes, our empirical understanding of early supergene evolution is limited. Here we focus on the young ‘social’ supergene of fire ants, a powerful system for disentangling the effects of evolutionary antagonism and suppressed recombination. We hypothesize that gene degeneration and social antagonism shaped the evolution of the fire ant supergene, resulting in distinct patterns of gene expression. We test these ideas by identifying allelic differences between supergene variants, characterizing allelic expression across populations, castes and body parts, and contrasting allelic expression biases with differences in expression between social forms. We find strong signatures of gene degeneration and gene-specific dosage compensation. On this background, a small portion of the genes has the signature of adaptive responses to evolutionary antagonism between social forms.