Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who's queen? Insulin signaling key to caste development in bees

Date:
July 14, 2010
Source:
Arizona State University
Summary:
What makes a bee grow up to be a queen? Scientists have long pondered this mystery. Now, researchers have fit a new piece into the puzzle of bee development -- a piece that also illuminates understanding about our own development and aging. The study shows that a key protein in the insulin signaling pathway plays a strong role in caste development among bees.

Insulin signaling is key to separating those who would be queen (marked in blue) from workers.
Credit: Credit: F. Wolschin and AJ Siegel

What makes a bee grow up to be a queen? Scientists have long pondered this mystery. Now, researchers in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University have fit a new piece into the puzzle of bee development. Their work not only adds to understanding about bees, but also adds insights into our own development and aging.

The study, which appeared in the June 30 online edition of Biology Letters, shows that a key protein in the insulin signaling pathway plays a strong role in caste development among bees.

A female bee can become either a worker or a queen. Queen bees are larger and live longer than workers. Queen bees are also fertile while workers are essentially sterile. A queen has only one role -- to lay eggs -- while workers tend the hive, care for the queen and larvae, and forage for food.

"The incredible thing is that both of these types of female honeybees emerge from the same genome," says Florian Wolschin, an assistant research professor in the School of Life Sciences in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is the lead author of the study. "So how does that happen?"

Workers determine the fate of the larvae by what they feed them. The amount and composition of food that the larvae receive determine whether they become workers or queens. People have known this for many years, but exactly what happens inside the cells to create this split isn't completely clear.

Wolschin, Gro Amdam, an associate professor, and Navdeep S. Mutti, a postdoctoral research associate, found that the insulin signaling pathway plays a role in caste development. Insulin is a hormone found in humans and many other animals, and insulin-like peptides have been discovered in bees. Insulin moves glucose -- sugar -- from the bloodstream into the body's cells where it can be used.

The researchers suppressed one of the key proteins in this pathway in honeybee larvae. The protein, called the insulin receptor substrate (IRS), has been linked to growth, development and reproduction in mice. The researchers fed the altered larvae a queen's diet, but they developed into workers, not queens.

IRS is only one component of the process that decides a bee's ultimate fate. Wolschin says several other molecules are known to play a role, including DNA methyltransferase, juvenile hormone and a protein called TOR.

"Those are all very important and fundamental mechanisms," says Wolschin. "One single part cannot alone be responsible. It has to be the interplay between different mechanisms that finally results in the divergence of queens and workers."

The researchers are now looking at the interconnections between several of these factors. "We want to see if maybe there's a hierarchy involved. Several of the components are probably 'upstream' of other processes. So they serve as mass regulators and switches," says Wolschin.

Honeybees are vitally important to our economy through pollination of crops as well as production of honey, wax and royal jelly. Understanding bee biology is crucial to maintaining this industry in the face of problems like colony collapse disorder.

Wolschin adds that bees also provide an important model system that can help us understand our own biology. For example, scientists have successfully reversed many signs of aging in worker bees.

"That is pretty unique," says Wolschin. "You don't have other model organisms in aging research that can do that."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F. Wolschin, N. S. Mutti, G. V. Amdam. Insulin receptor substrate influences female caste development in honeybees. Biology Letters, 2010; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0463

Cite This Page:

Arizona State University. "Who's queen? Insulin signaling key to caste development in bees." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100714164834.htm>.
Arizona State University. (2010, July 14). Who's queen? Insulin signaling key to caste development in bees. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100714164834.htm
Arizona State University. "Who's queen? Insulin signaling key to caste development in bees." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100714164834.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins