Phenotypic plasticity shapes genome architecture in the honeybee Apis mellifera (RNA-seq)
ABSTRACT: Female honeybees are specified as workers or queens based on diet during early development. Workers are essentially sterile with a reduced number of ovarioles and no spermatheca. In the presence of the queen (queen mandibular pheromone) and her brood, worker ovaries are kept in an inactive quiescent state. If the queen is removed, or lost, worker bees are able to sense this change in their environment and their ovaries undergo complete remodeling producing unfertilized haploid eggs that will produce male (drone bees). In this study we analyze gene expression in queen, worker, and laying worker ovaries using RNA-seq and explore differences in the chromatin landscape (focusing on H3K27me3). Overall design: RNA-seq to measure gene expression in queen, queen right worker and actively laying worker ovaries
Project description:Female honeybees are specified as workers or queens based on diet during early development. Workers are essentially sterile with a reduced number of ovarioles and no spermatheca. In the presence of the queen (queen mandibular pheromone) and her brood, worker ovaries are kept in an inactive quiescent state. If the queen is removed, or lost, worker bees are able to sense this change in their environment and their ovaries undergo complete remodelling producing unfertilised haploid eggs that will produce male (drone bees). In this study we analyse gene expression in queen, worker, and laying worker ovaries using RNA-seq and explore differences in the chromatin landscape (focussing on H3K27me3). Overall design: Genome-wide distribution of H3K27me3 was determined by Chromatin immunopreciptation in ovary tissue of queens, sterile workers and workers laying eggs.
Project description:The eusocial societies of honeybees, where the queen is the only fertile female among tens of thousands sterile worker bees, have intrigued scientists for centuries. The proximate factors, which cause the inhibition of worker bee ovaries, remain largely unknown; as are the factors which cause the activation of worker ovaries upon the loss of queen and brood in the colony. In an attempt to reveal key players in the regulatory network, we made a proteomic comparison of hemolymph profiles of workers with completely activated ovaries vs. rudimentary ovaries. An unexpected finding of this study is the correlation between age matched worker sterility and the enrichment of Picorna-like virus proteins. Fertile workers, on the other hand, show the upregulation of potential components of the immune system. It remains to be investigated whether viral infections contribute to worker sterility directly or are the result of a weaker immune system of sterile workers.
Project description:The hallmark of eusociality is the reproductive division of labour, in which one female caste reproduces, while reproduction is constrained in the subordinate caste. In adult worker honeybees (Apis mellifera) reproductive constraint is conditional: in the absence of the queen and brood, adult worker honeybees activate their ovaries and lay haploid male eggs. Here, we demonstrate that chemical inhibition of Notch signalling can overcome the repressive effect of queen pheromone and promote ovary activity in adult worker honeybees. We show that Notch signalling acts on the earliest stages of oogenesis and that the removal of the queen corresponds with a loss of Notch protein in the germarium. We conclude that the ancient and pleiotropic Notch signalling pathway has been co-opted into constraining reproduction in worker honeybees and we provide the first molecular mechanism directly linking ovary activity in adult worker bees with the presence of the queen.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Honey bee (Apis mellifera) drones and workers show differences in morphology, physiology, and behavior. Because the functions of drones are more related to colony reproduction, and those of workers relate to both survival and reproduction, we hypothesize that the microclimate for worker brood is more precisely regulated than that of drone brood. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:We assessed temperature and relative humidity (RH) inside honey bee colonies for both drone and worker brood throughout the three-stage development period, using digital HOBO® Data Loggers. The major findings of this study are that 1) both drone and worker castes show the highest temperature for eggs, followed by larvae and then pupae; 2) temperature in drones are maintained at higher precision (smaller variance) in drone eggs and larvae, but at a lower precision in pupae than the corresponding stages of workers; 3) RH regulation showed higher variance in drone than workers across all brood stages; and 4) RH regulation seems largely due to regulation by workers, as the contribution from empty honey combs are much smaller compared to that from adult workers. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:We conclude that honey bee colonies maintain both temperature and humidity actively; that the microclimate for sealed drone brood is less precisely regulated than worker brood; and that combs with honey contribute very little to the increase of RH in honey bee colonies. These findings increase our understanding of microclimate regulation in honey bees and may have implications for beekeeping practices.
Project description:Mating has profound effects on the physiology and behavior of female insects, and in honey bee (Apis mellifera) queens, these changes are permanent. Queens mate with multiple males during a brief period in their early adult lives, and shortly thereafter they initiate egg-laying. Furthermore, the pheromone profiles of mated queens differ from those of virgins, and these pheromones regulate many different aspects of worker behavior and colony organization. While it is clear that mating causes dramatic changes in queens, it is unclear if mating number has more subtle effects on queen physiology or queen-worker interactions; indeed, the effect of multiple matings on female insect physiology has not been broadly addressed. Because it is not possible to control the natural mating behavior of queens, we used instrumental insemination and compared queens inseminated with semen from either a single drone (single-drone inseminated, or SDI) or 10 drones (multi-drone inseminated, or MDI). We used observation hives to monitor attraction of workers to SDI or MDI queens in colonies, and cage studies to monitor the attraction of workers to virgin, SDI, and MDI queen mandibular gland extracts (the main source of queen pheromone). The chemical profiles of the mandibular glands of virgin, SDI, and MDI queens were characterized using GC-MS. Finally, we measured brain expression levels in SDI and MDI queens of a gene associated with phototaxis in worker honey bees (Amfor). Here, we demonstrate for the first time that insemination quantity significantly affects mandibular gland chemical profiles, queen-worker interactions, and brain gene expression. Further research will be necessary to elucidate the mechanistic bases for these effects: insemination volume, sperm and seminal protein quantity, and genetic diversity of the sperm may all be important factors contributing to this profound change in honey bee queen physiology, queen behavior, and social interactions in the colony.
Project description:Reproductive division of labour is a hallmark of eusociality, but disentangling the underlying proximate mechanisms can be challenging. In bumblebees, workers isolated from the queen can activate their ovaries and lay haploid, male eggs. We investigated if volatile, contact, visual or behavioural cues produced by the queen or brood mediate reproductive dominance in Bombus impatiens. Exposure to queen-produced volatiles, brood-produced volatiles and direct contact with pupae did not reduce worker ovary activation; only direct contact with the queen could reduce ovary activation. We evaluated behaviour, physiology and gene expression patterns in workers that were reared in chambers with all stages of brood and a free queen, caged queen (where workers could contact the queen, but the queen was unable to initiate interactions) or no queen. Workers housed with a caged queen or no queen fully activated their ovaries, whereas ovary activation in workers housed with a free queen was completely inhibited. The caged queen marginally reduced worker aggression and expression of an aggression-associated gene relative to queenless workers. Thus, queen-initiated behavioural interactions appear necessary to establish reproductive dominance. Queen-produced chemical cues may function secondarily in a context-specific manner to augment behavioural cues, as reliable or honest signal.
Project description:The mandibular glands of queen honeybees produce a pheromone that modulates many aspects of worker honeybee physiology and behavior and is critical for colony social organization. The exact chemical blend produced by the queen differs between virgin and mated, laying queens. Here, we investigate the role of mating and reproductive state on queen pheromone production and worker responses. Virgin queens, naturally mated queens, and queens instrumentally inseminated with either semen or saline were collected 2 days after mating or insemination. Naturally mated queens had the most activated ovaries and the most distinct chemical profile in their mandibular glands. Instrumentally inseminated queens were intermediate between virgins and naturally mated queens for both ovary activation and chemical profiles. There were no significant differences between semen- and saline-inseminated queens. Workers were preferentially attracted to the mandibular gland extracts from queens with significantly more activated ovaries. These studies suggest that the queen pheromone blend is modulated by the reproductive status of the queens, and workers can detect these subtle differences and are more responsive to queens with higher reproductive potential. Furthermore, it appears as if insemination substance does not strongly affect physiological characteristics of honeybee queens 2 days after insemination, suggesting that the insemination process or volume is responsible for stimulating these early postmating changes in honeybee queens.
Project description:Workers of several social insects are capable of gaining direct fitness by laying unfertilized eggs, which then develop into males. However, under queenright conditions, direct reproduction of workers is usually prevented by queen-induced regulatory mechanisms. In nature, some ant colonies inhabit multiple nests sites (polydomy). This might allow workers to escape queen control and to reproduce. However, whether worker-produced brood survives after colony reunion in seasonally polydomous species remains unclear. In several species, worker-produced eggs and male-destined larvae are selectively destroyed in queenright colonies. Here, we test whether workers discriminate between queen- and worker-produced larvae during colony reunion. We examined the reproductive success of workers in queenless subcolonies of our study species Temnothorax crassispinus. Our results show that present brood did not inhibit worker reproduction but had a positive effect on worker lifespan. Larvae produced by workers were readily integrated into queenright subcolonies during colony reunion and these larvae successfully developed into adult males.
Project description:Dietary sources of essential amino acids (EAAs) are used for growth, somatic maintenance and reproduction. Eusocial insect workers such as honeybees are sterile, and unlike other animals, their nutritional needs should be largely dictated by somatic demands that arise from their role within the colony. Here, we investigated the extent to which the dietary requirements of adult worker honeybees for EAAs and carbohydrates are affected by behavioural caste using the Geometric Framework for nutrition. The nutritional optimum, or intake target (IT), was determined by confining cohorts of 20 young bees or foragers to liquid diets composed of specific proportions of EAAs and sucrose. The IT of young, queenless bees shifted from a proportion of EAAs-to-carbohydrates (EAA:C) of 1:50 towards 1:75 over a 2-week period, accompanied by a reduced lifespan on diets high in EAAs. Foragers required a diet high in carbohydrates (1:250) and also had low survival on diets high in EAA. Workers exposed to queen mandibular pheromone lived longer on diets high in EAA, even when those diets contained 5× their dietary requirements. Our data show that worker honeybees prioritize their intake of carbohydrates over dietary EAAs, even when overeating EAAs to obtain sufficient carbohydrates results in a shorter lifespan. Thus, our data demonstrate that even when young bees are not nursing brood and foragers are not flying, their nutritional needs shift towards a diet largely composed of carbohydrates when they make the transition from within-hive duties to foraging.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Regulation of worker behavior by dominant queens or workers is a hallmark of insect societies, but the underlying molecular mechanisms and their evolutionary conservation are not well understood. Honey bee and bumble bee colonies consist of a single reproductive queen and facultatively sterile workers. The queens' influences on the workers are mediated largely via inhibition of juvenile hormone titers, which affect division of labor in honey bees and worker reproduction in bumble bees. Studies in honey bees identified a transcription factor, Krüppel-homolog 1 (Kr-h1), whose expression in worker brains is significantly downregulated in the presence of a queen or queen pheromone and higher in forager bees, making this gene an ideal candidate for examining the evolutionary conservation of socially regulated pathways in Hymenoptera. RESULTS: In contrast to honey bees, bumble bees foragers do not have higher Kr-h1 levels relative to nurses: in one of three colonies levels were similar in nurses and foragers, and in two colonies levels were higher in nurses. Similarly to honey bees, brain Kr-h1 levels were significantly downregulated in the presence versus absence of a queen. Furthermore, in small queenless groups, Kr-h1 levels were downregulated in subordinate workers with undeveloped ovaries relative to dominant individuals with active ovaries. Brain Kr-h1 levels were upregulated by juvenile hormone treatment relative to a vehicle control. Finally, phylogenetic analysis indicates that KR-H1 orthologs are presence across insect orders. Though this protein is highly conserved between honey bees and bumble bees, there are significant differences between orthologs of insects from different orders. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that Kr-h1 is associated with juvenile hormone mediated regulation of reproduction in bumble bees. The expression of this transcription factor is inhibited by the queen and associated with endocrine mediated regulation of social organization in two species of bees. Thus, KR-H1 may transcriptionally regulate a conserved genetic module that is part of a pathway that has been co-opted to function in social behavior, and adjusts the behavior of workers to their social environmental context.