Research ArticleENTOMOLOGY

A dietary phytochemical alters caste-associated gene expression in honey bees

Science Advances  28 Aug 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 7, e1500795
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500795

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Abstract

In the eusocial honey bee Apis mellifera, with reproductive queens and sterile workers, a female larva’s developmental fate depends on its diet; nurse bees feed queen-destined larvae exclusively royal jelly, a glandular secretion, but worker-destined larvae receive royal jelly for 3 days and subsequently jelly to which honey and beebread are added. RNA-Seq analysis demonstrated that p-coumaric acid, which is ubiquitous in honey and beebread, differentially regulates genes involved in caste determination. Rearing larvae in vitro on a royal jelly diet to which p-coumaric acid has been added produces adults with reduced ovary development. Thus, consuming royal jelly exclusively not only enriches the diet of queen-destined larvae but also may protect them from inhibitory effects of phytochemicals present in the honey and beebread fed to worker-destined larvae.

Keywords
  • Apis mellifera
  • beebread
  • caste determination
  • eusociality
  • honeybee
  • honey
  • phenolics
  • phytochemistry
  • royal jelly

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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