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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2000 Aug-Sep;30(8-9):729-37.

Terminal steps in JH biosynthesis in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L. ): developmental changes in sensitivity to JH precursor and allatotropin.

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  • 1Bee Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Bldg. 476, BARC-East, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


Juvenile hormone (JH) is considered the prime endogenous signal for the induction of queen development in honey bees (Apis mellifera L.). At the beginning of the last (5th) larval stadium, worker corpora allata synthesize less JH than queen corpora allata as a consequence of a limited production of JH precursors and a caste- and stage-specific block of the terminal step in JH biosynthesis. As previously shown, the Manduca sexta allatotropin stimulates JH biosynthesis in honey bee corpora allata in a dose-dependent and reversible manner, but can not overcome the stage-specific block in the terminal step of JH biosynthesis that is typical for worker early 5th instars. In experiments with M. sexta allatotropin and with the JH precursor farnesoic acid, we found characteristic stage-specific differences in their effects on JH biosynthesis. From the end of the spinning stage on, corpora allata could be stimulated by farnesoic acid to a much higher extent than in earlier developmental stages, suggesting a sudden increase in epoxidase activity. Manduca sexta allatotropin, however, stimulated corpora allata activity until the end of the spinning stage, at which time the corpora allata become suddenly insensitive. These data suggest that in worker larvae, important changes in the regulation of the terminal enzymatic steps in JH biosynthesis occur at the transition from the spinning stage to the prepupal stage. However, the analysis of in vitro activities of the involved enzymes, O-methyltransferase and methyl farnesoate epoxidase, remained inconclusive.

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