Royalactin induces queen differentiation in honeybees.

Biotechnology Research Center, Toyama Prefectural University, Imizu, Toyama 939-0398, Japan.
Nature (Impact Factor: 38.6). 05/2011; 473(7348):478-83. DOI: 10.1038/nature10093
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The honeybee (Apis mellifera) forms two female castes: the queen and the worker. This dimorphism depends not on genetic differences, but on ingestion of royal jelly, although the mechanism through which royal jelly regulates caste differentiation has long remained unknown. Here I show that a 57-kDa protein in royal jelly, previously designated as royalactin, induces the differentiation of honeybee larvae into queens. Royalactin increased body size and ovary development and shortened developmental time in honeybees. Surprisingly, it also showed similar effects in the fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster). Mechanistic studies revealed that royalactin activated p70 S6 kinase, which was responsible for the increase of body size, increased the activity of mitogen-activated protein kinase, which was involved in the decreased developmental time, and increased the titre of juvenile hormone, an essential hormone for ovary development. Knockdown of epidermal growth factor receptor (Egfr) expression in the fat body of honeybees and fruitflies resulted in a defect of all phenotypes induced by royalactin, showing that Egfr mediates these actions. These findings indicate that a specific factor in royal jelly, royalactin, drives queen development through an Egfr-mediated signalling pathway.

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    ABSTRACT: In the honeybee, Apis mellifera, the queen larvae are fed with a diet exclusively composed of royal jelly (RJ), a secretion of the hypopharyngeal gland of young worker bees that nurse the brood. Up to 15% of RJ is composed of proteins, the nine most abundant of which have been termed major royal jelly proteins (MRJPs). Although it is widely accepted that RJ somehow determines the fate of a female larva and in spite of considerable research efforts, there are surprisingly few studies that address the biochemical characterisation and functions of these MRJPs. Here we review the research on MRJPs not only in honeybees but in hymenopteran insects in general and provide metadata analyses on genome organisation of mrjp genes, corroborating previous reports that MRJPs have important functions for insect development and not just a nutritional value for developing honeybee larvae.
    Biological Reviews 05/2014; 89(2):255-269. · 10.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Royal jelly proteins (MRJPs) of the honeybee bear several open questions. One of them is their expression in tissues other than the hypopharyngeal glands (HGs), the site of royal jelly production. The sole MRJP-like gene of the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris (BtRJPL), represents a pre-diversification stage of the MRJP gene evolution in bees. Here we investigate the expression of BtRJPL in the HGs and the brain of bumblebees. Comparison of the HGs of bumblebees and honeybees revealed striking differences in their morphology with respect to sex- and caste-specific appearance, number of cells per acinus, and filamentous actin (F-actin) rings. At the cellular level, we found a temporary F-actin-covered meshwork in the secretory cells, which suggests a role for actin in the biogenesis of the end apparatus in HGs. Using immunohistochemical localization, we show that BtRJPL is expressed in the bumblebee brain, predominantly in the Kenyon cells of the mushroom bodies, the site of sensory integration in insects, and in the optic lobes. Our data suggest that a dual gland-brain function preceded the multiplication of MRJPs in the honeybee lineage. In the course of the honeybee evolution, HGs dramatically changed their morphology in order to serve a food-producing function.
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    ABSTRACT: Honeybees (Apis mellifera), which are important pollinators of plants, display remarkable individual behaviors that collectively contribute to the organization of a complex society. Advances in dissecting the complex processes of honeybee behavior have been limited in the recent past due to a lack of genetic manipulation tools. These tools are difficult to apply in honeybees because the unit of reproduction is the colony, and many interesting phenotypes are developmentally specified at later stages. Here, we report highly efficient integration and expression of piggyBac-derived cassettes in the honeybee. We demonstrate that 27 and 20% of queens stably transmitted two different expression cassettes to their offspring, which is a 6- to 30-fold increase in efficiency compared with those generally reported in other insect species. This high efficiency implies that an average beekeeping facility with a limited number of colonies can apply this tool. We demonstrated that the cassette stably and efficiently expressed marker genes in progeny under either an artificial or an endogenous promoter. This evidence of efficient expression encourages the use of this system to inhibit gene functions through RNAi in specific tissues and developmental stages by using various promoters. We also showed that the transgenic marker could be used to select transgenic offspring to be employed to facilitate the building of transgenic colonies via the haploid males. We present here the first to our knowledge genetic engineering tool that will efficiently allow for the systematic detection and better understanding of processes underlying the biology of honeybees.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2014; · 9.74 Impact Factor


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