Monthly Archives: April 2011

New Paper: a role by cell size in honey bee caste differentiation

Diet and Cell Size Both Affect Queen-Worker Differentiation through DNA Methylation in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera, Apidae)


Young larvae of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) are totipotent; they can become either queens (reproductives) or workers (largely sterile helpers). DNA methylation has been shown to play an important role in this differentiation. In this study, we examine the contributions of diet and cell size to caste differentiation.

We measured the activity and gene expression of one key enzyme involved in methylation, Dnmt3; the rates of methylation in the gene dynactin p62; as well as morphological characteristics of adult bees developed either from larvae fed with worker jelly or royal jelly; and larvae raised in either queen or worker cells. We show that both diet type and cell size contributed to the queen-worker differentiation, and that the two factors affected different methylation sites inside the same gene dynactin p62.

We confirm previous findings that Dnmt3 plays a critical role in honey bee caste differentiation. Further, we show for the first time that cell size also plays a role in influencing larval development when diet is kept the same.

Yuan Yuan Shi1, Zachary Y. Huang2,3*, Zhi Jiang Zeng1*, Zi Long Wang1, Xiao Bo Wu1, Wei Yu Yan1

1 Honeybee Research Institute, Jiangxi Agricultural University, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China, 2 Department of Entomology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America, 3 Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America