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J Insect Physiol. 2008 Jun;54(6):1064-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2008.04.009. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

The insulin signaling pathway in honey bee (Apis mellifera) caste development - differential expression of insulin-like peptides and insulin receptors in queen and worker larvae.

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Universidade de São Paulo-Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Biologia Celular e Molecular e Bioagentes Patogenicos, Avenida Bandeirantes 3900, 14049-900 Ribeirão Preto, SP Brazil.


The insulin/insulin-like signaling (IIS) pathway is an evolutionarily conserved module in the control of body size and correlated organ growth in metazoans. In the highly eusocial bees, the caste phenotypes differ not only in size and several structural features but also in individual fitness and life history. We investigated the developmental expression profiles of genes encoding the two insulin-like peptides (AmILP-1 and AmILP-2) and the two insulin receptors (AmInR-1 and AmInR-2) predicted in the honey bee genome. Quantitative PCR analysis for queen and worker larvae in critical stages of caste development showed that AmILP-2 is the predominantly transcribed ILP in both castes, with higher expression in workers than in queens. Expression of both InR genes sharply declined in fourth instar queen larvae, but showed little modulation in workers. On first sight, these findings are non-intuitive, considering the higher growth rates of queens, but they can be interpreted as possibly antagonistic crosstalk between the IIS module and juvenile hormone. Analyzing AmInR-1 and AmInR-2 expression in ovaries of queen and worker larvae revealed low transcript levels in queens and a sharp drop in AmInR-2 expression in fifth instar worker larvae, indicating relative independence in tissue-specific versus overall IIS pathway activity.

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