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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Baton Rouge, Louisiana » Honey Bee Lab » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #398557

Research Project: Using Genetics to Improve the Breeding and Health of Honey Bees

Location: Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research

Title: Genetic stock affects expression patterns of the multifunctional gene Vitellogenin in honey bee workers

item Ihle, Kate

Submitted to: Journal of Apicultural Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/21/2022
Publication Date: 1/26/2023
Citation: Ihle, K.E. 2023. Genetic stock affects expression patterns of the multifunctional gene Vitellogenin in honey bee workers. Journal of Apicultural Research. p. 1-3.

Interpretive Summary: Vitellogenin (Vg) is a yolk-precursor protein that is used by egg laying animals to provision eggs with the nutrients an embryo needs for development. In honey bees, this protein is produced not only by the egg-laying queens but also by the sterile workers. In these workers, Vg has evolved many diverse functions. Some are closely related to its original function, like its use in producing brood food to feed to the developing larvae. Others, such as a role in regulating foraging behavior, foraging onset, and overwintering success are unique, but nevertheless very important to honey bees and their colonies. Because Vg takes a lot of energy and nutrients to produce, its production is often linked to protein/pollen consumption in workers. However, we also know that there is a genetic aspect to Vg production as well. Because of this, we tested how Vg production in four stocks of honey bees was affected by environmental and diet conditions in four stocks of honey bees. We found that three of the stocks adjusted their Vg production with their environment/diet, but that one stock appeared to be insensitive to nutritional input. This flexibility in Vg regulation may have important implications for how different stock can respond to different nutritional environments and a changing climate.

Technical Abstract: We tested expression of the multi-functional gene Vitellogenin (Vg) in four commercially available stocks of honey bees (Apis mellifera: L) under three different treatments: caged bees fed only 50% sucrose solution, caged bees fed sucrose solution and pollen paste, and free-roaming bees in a colony setting. We found that seven-day old bees fed pollen and sucrose in the lab as well as those in the colony had higher Vg expression than those fed only sucrose. We also found strong differences in how the stocks responded to the treatments. This ranged from the Italian bees where expression was different between all treatment groups to the Saskatraz where there were no effects of treatment on Vg expression.