Research ArticleENTOMOLOGY

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

See allHide authors and affiliations

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


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.

  • 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.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances