Submitted to: Nature
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/9/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: The honey bee, Apis mellifera, has longstanding importance for agriculture thanks to both pollination services and the production of hive products. Female honey bees develop as workers or queens depending on the nutrition they receive and their treatment by nestmate 'nurse' workers. This paper presents the first genome-wide view of the genetic steps involved with producing a queen honey bee. Genes are described that can be used both as tests for queen health and robustness, and to further improve the techniques used to raise honey bee queens. This information will be used by other scientists interested in gene expression and will ultimately benefit the U.S. beekeeping industry.
Technical Abstract: Female honey bees (Apis mellifera) are fated to become queens or workers during the first few days of larval development. Here we use gene-expression arrays to link environmental cues that drive caste determination with their physiological results. Expression profiles of honey bee worker larvae are more similar to young, bipotential, larvae than are queens. Queens over-expressed several metabolic enzymes, a result predicted by their enhanced growth rates during larval development. Workers showed increased expression of a member of the cytochrome P450 family, hexameric storage proteins and dihydrodiol dehydrogenase, while young larvae over-expressed two putative heat shock proteins (70 and 90kDa), and several proteins related to RNA processing and translation. Knowledge of these genetic processes can now be used to determine the processes by which robust honey bee queens are raised, and can help determine critical timepoints during the queen-worker switch. We anticipate that these results will be generally useful for characterizing queen production in the social bees, ants, and wasps.