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A deficit of detoxification enzymes: pesticide sensitivity and environmental response in the honeybee


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C. Claudianos, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. Fax: +61(2)61253808; e-mail: charles.claudianos@anu.edu.au


The honeybee genome has substantially fewer protein coding genes (≈ 11 000 genes) than Drosophila melanogaster (≈ 13 500) and Anopheles gambiae (≈ 14 000). Some of the most marked differences occur in three superfamilies encoding xenobiotic detoxifying enzymes. Specifically there are only about half as many glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs), cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (P450s) and carboxyl/cholinesterases (CCEs) in the honeybee. This includes 10-fold or greater shortfalls in the numbers of Delta and Epsilon GSTs and CYP4 P450s, members of which clades have been recurrently associated with insecticide resistance in other species. These shortfalls may contribute to the sensitivity of the honeybee to insecticides. On the other hand there are some recent radiations in CYP6, CYP9 and certain CCE clades in A. mellifera that could be associated with the evolution of the hormonal and chemosensory processes underpinning its highly organized eusociality.