Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Research led by Wayne State discovers single gene in bees separating queens from workers

Discovery may provide key to increasing agricultural economy in Michigan and beyond

A research team led by Wayne State University, in collaboration with Michigan State University, has identified a single gene in honeybees that separates the queens from the workers.

The scientists unraveled the gene's inner workings and published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters. The gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees' ability to carry pollen.

"The gene — Ultrabithorax, or Ubx — is responsible for making hind legs different from fore legs so they can carry pollen" said Aleksandar Popadic, associate professor of biological sciences in Wayne State University's College of Liberal Arts and Science and principal investigator of the study. "In some groups, like crickets, Ubx is responsible for creating a 'jumping' hind leg. In others, such as bees, it makes a pollen basket — a 'naked,' bristle-free leg region that creates a space for packing pollen."

"Other studies have shed some light on this gene's role in this realm, but our team examined in great detail how the modifications take place," added Zachary Huang, MSU entomologist.

Ubx represses the development of bristles on bees' hind legs, creating a smooth surface that can be used for packing pollen. This important discovery can be used as a foray into more commercial studies focused on providing means to enhance a bee's pollination ability – the bigger the pollen basket, the more pollen that can be packed in it and transported back to the hive.

While workers have these distinct features, queens do not. The team confirmed this by isolating and silencing Ubx. This made the pollen baskets completely disappear, altered the growth of the pollen comb and reduced the size of the pollen press. Interestingly, Ubx is also expressed in the same region of the hind legs in bumble bees, which are in the same family as honey bees. This finding suggests that the evolution of the pollen-gathering apparatus in all corbiculate bees may have a shared origin and could be traced to the acquisition of novel functions by Ubx.

In another interesting finding, researchers identified that bees living in more complex social structures have an advantage over isolated populations in developing these important functions.

"The pollen baskets are much less elaborate or completely absent in bees that are less socially complex," Huang said. "We conclude that the evolution of pollen baskets is a major innovation among social insects and is tied directly to more complex social behaviors."

The value of agricultural crops dependent on honey bee pollination was estimated to be $14.6 billion per year in the U.S. in 2013.

"In Michigan alone, the fruit and vegetable industries produce over $2 billion per year, and nearly 50 percent of that value is due entirely to honey bee pollination," said Huang. "This shows that bees are contributing significantly to the state and national economy."

This study, along with future research by Popadic and Huang, may provide an option for improving the shrinking population of bees' pollen-collecting capacity, leading to increased pollination and hopeful increases in fruit and vegetable production.

This research was funded to Popadic by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, number GM071927.

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.

Julie O'Connor | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Peering into cell structures where neurodiseases emerge
26.11.2015 | University of Delaware

nachricht How a genetic locus protects adult blood-forming stem cells
26.11.2015 | Stowers Institute for Medical Research

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

How a genetic locus protects adult blood-forming stem cells

26.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Stanford technology makes metal wires on solar cells nearly invisible to light

26.11.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Peering into cell structures where neurodiseases emerge

26.11.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>