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A single gene coordinates the social life of honeybees.

Gross L - PLoS Biol. (2007)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

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In a new study, Mindy Nelson, Kate Ihle, Gro Amdam, and colleagues reveal one possible path to community by showing that a single gene controls multiple traits related to honeybee sociability... First characterized for its role in reproduction, the gene,vitellogenin, is widely found in egg-laying insects, which depend on it for egg cell development... Scientists began to suspect that the protein synthesized from thevitellogeningene—vitellogenin—might affect these social life history traits in honeybees as it became clear that the protein supported an array of functions not directly linked to egg-laying... In a previous study, the researchers also proposed that changes invitellogeningene expression early in life could foster the selective behavior that creates the division of labor between pollen and nectar specialists... To test these proposed roles of vitellogenin in coordinating the social life of the honeybee, Nelson et al. inhibited the expression of thevitellogeningene with RNA interference (RNAi)... This gene-silencing tool introduces a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) product whose sequence is complementary to a target gene, thereby setting off a series of events that ultimately “knocks down” the target gene... The researchers injected avitellogenindsRNA preparation into the abdomen of a subset of bees and compared their behavior and lifespan to a control group. (The control group also received a dsRNA treatment designed to mimic the stress of experimental handling without affecting gene expression.) The bees’ vitellogenin levels were monitored at 10 days, 15 days, and 20 days old to make sure the RNAi effects persisted... Altogether, these results demonstrate that vitellogenin regulates the organizational structure of honeybee society by influencing workers’ division of labor and foraging preference... Vitellogenin, the researchers conclude, controls not only when bees start foraging and how long they live, but what they forage... Higher levels early in life favor pollen; lower levels favor nectar... Since current methods cannot yet distinguish the effects of vitellogenin from those of juvenile hormone, the researchers argue that the two physiological factors should be considered as partners in mediating task assignment and specialization... Since this partnership is uncommon in insects, it suggests that social behavior in honeybees emerged from a makeover of relations between vitellogenin and juvenile hormone... It also bolsters the notion that factors normally in control of female reproduction can lay the foundation for the transition from solitary life to complex social behavior.

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A honeybee gene originally used in egg production has become an important behavioral modulator and a timekeeper of social life. (Image: Siri-Christine Seehuus)
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pbio-0050086-g001: A honeybee gene originally used in egg production has become an important behavioral modulator and a timekeeper of social life. (Image: Siri-Christine Seehuus)


A single gene coordinates the social life of honeybees.

Gross L - PLoS Biol. (2007)

A honeybee gene originally used in egg production has become an important behavioral modulator and a timekeeper of social life. (Image: Siri-Christine Seehuus)
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC1808118&req=5

pbio-0050086-g001: A honeybee gene originally used in egg production has become an important behavioral modulator and a timekeeper of social life. (Image: Siri-Christine Seehuus)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

In a new study, Mindy Nelson, Kate Ihle, Gro Amdam, and colleagues reveal one possible path to community by showing that a single gene controls multiple traits related to honeybee sociability... First characterized for its role in reproduction, the gene,vitellogenin, is widely found in egg-laying insects, which depend on it for egg cell development... Scientists began to suspect that the protein synthesized from thevitellogeningene—vitellogenin—might affect these social life history traits in honeybees as it became clear that the protein supported an array of functions not directly linked to egg-laying... In a previous study, the researchers also proposed that changes invitellogeningene expression early in life could foster the selective behavior that creates the division of labor between pollen and nectar specialists... To test these proposed roles of vitellogenin in coordinating the social life of the honeybee, Nelson et al. inhibited the expression of thevitellogeningene with RNA interference (RNAi)... This gene-silencing tool introduces a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) product whose sequence is complementary to a target gene, thereby setting off a series of events that ultimately “knocks down” the target gene... The researchers injected avitellogenindsRNA preparation into the abdomen of a subset of bees and compared their behavior and lifespan to a control group. (The control group also received a dsRNA treatment designed to mimic the stress of experimental handling without affecting gene expression.) The bees’ vitellogenin levels were monitored at 10 days, 15 days, and 20 days old to make sure the RNAi effects persisted... Altogether, these results demonstrate that vitellogenin regulates the organizational structure of honeybee society by influencing workers’ division of labor and foraging preference... Vitellogenin, the researchers conclude, controls not only when bees start foraging and how long they live, but what they forage... Higher levels early in life favor pollen; lower levels favor nectar... Since current methods cannot yet distinguish the effects of vitellogenin from those of juvenile hormone, the researchers argue that the two physiological factors should be considered as partners in mediating task assignment and specialization... Since this partnership is uncommon in insects, it suggests that social behavior in honeybees emerged from a makeover of relations between vitellogenin and juvenile hormone... It also bolsters the notion that factors normally in control of female reproduction can lay the foundation for the transition from solitary life to complex social behavior.

No MeSH data available.