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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2006 Dec;5(12):2252-62. Epub 2006 Aug 18.

Quantitative comparison of caste differences in honeybee hemolymph.

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  • 1UBC Centre for Proteomics, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.


The honeybee, Apis mellifera, is an invaluable partner in agriculture around the world both for its production of honey and, more importantly, for its role in pollination. Honeybees are largely unexplored at the molecular level despite a long and distinguished career as a model organism for understanding social behavior. Like other eusocial insects, honeybees can be divided into several castes: the queen (fertile female), workers (sterile females), and drones (males). Each caste has different energetic and metabolic requirements, and each differs in its susceptibility to pathogens, many of which have evolved to take advantage of the close social network inside a colony. Hemolymph, arthropods' equivalent to blood, distributes nutrients throughout the bee, and the immune components contained within it form one of the primary lines of defense against invading microorganisms. In this study we have applied qualitative and quantitative proteomics to gain a better understanding of honeybee hemolymph and how it varies among the castes and during development. We found large differences in hemolymph protein composition, especially between larval and adult stage bees and between male and female castes but even between adult workers and queens. We also provide experimental evidence for the expression of several unannotated honeybee genes and for the detection of biomarkers of a viral infection. Our data provide an initial molecular picture of honeybee hemolymph, to a greater depth than previous studies in other insects, and will pave the way for future biochemical studies of innate immunity in this animal.

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