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Insulin signaling key to caste development in bees
Date:7/14/2010

What makes a bee grow up to be a queen? Scientists have long pondered this mystery. Now, researchers in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University have fit a new piece into the puzzle of bee development. Their work not only adds to understanding about bees, but also adds insights into our own development and aging.

The study, which appeared in the June 30 online edition of Biology Letters, shows that a key protein in the insulin signaling pathway plays a strong role in caste development among bees.

A female bee can become either a worker or a queen. Queen bees are larger and live longer than workers. Queen bees are also fertile while workers are essentially sterile. A queen has only one roleto lay eggswhile workers tend the hive, care for the queen and larvae, and forage for food.

"The incredible thing is that both of these types of female honeybees emerge from the same genome," says Florian Wolschin, an assistant research professor in the School of Life Sciences in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is the lead author of the study. "So how does that happen?"

Workers determine the fate of the larvae by what they feed them. The amount and composition of food that the larvae receive determine whether they become workers or queens. People have known this for many years, but exactly what happens inside the cells to create this split isn't completely clear.

Wolschin, Gro Amdam, an associate professor, and Navdeep S. Mutti, a postdoctoral research associate, found that the insulin signaling pathway plays a role in caste development. Insulin is a hormone found in humans and many other animals, and insulin-like peptides have been discovered in bees. Insulin moves glucosesugarfrom the bloodstream into the body's cells where it can be used.

The researchers suppressed one of the key proteins in this pathway in honeybee larvae. The protein, called the insulin receptor substrate (IRS), h
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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