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Expression of insulin pathway genes during the period of caste determination in the honey bee, Apis mellifera


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D. E. Wheeler, Department of Entomology, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ 85718–0036 USA. Tel.: +1 520 621 3273; fax: +1 520 621 1150; e-mail:dewsants@ag.arizona.edu


Female honeybees have two castes, queens and workers. Developmental fate is determined by larval diet. Coding sequences made available through the Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium allow for a pathway-based approach to understanding caste determination. We examined the expression of several genes of the insulin signalling pathway, which is central to regulation of growth based on nutrition. We found one insulin-like peptide expressed at very high levels in queen but not worker larvae. Also, the gene for an insulin receptor was expressed at higher levels in queen larvae during the 2nd larval instar. These results demonstrate that the insulin pathway is a compelling candidate for pursing the relationship between diet and downstream signals involved in caste determination and differentiation.