While it has been well established that royal jelly is the diet that makes bees queens, the molecular path from food to queen is still in dispute. However, scientists at Arizona State University, led by Adam Dolezal and Gro Amdam, have helped reconcile some of the conflicts about bee development and the role of insulin pathways and partner proteins. Their article "IIS and TOR nutrient-signaling pathways act via juvenile hormone to influence honey bee cast fate" has been published in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.
A worker bee (left) and queen bee (right) show the vast differences in development that can occur based upon the food a bee receives during its larval stages. These bees were raised in the laboratory of Gro Amdam at Arizona State Univeristy. Housed in plastic dishes, rather than a bee colony, allowed complete control of their diet, and offered researchers the ability to manipulate their gene expression levels and better identify developmental routes. Credit: Christofer Bang
However, while Dolezal and Amdam's studies showed that they could block queen development, and then rescue it, and clarified the role of IRS in the queen-making process, their work could not resolve the remaining conflict with Kamakura's results.
Taking a new tack, the Amdam group, which also included Navdeep Mutti, Florian Wolschin, and Jasdeep Mutti, and Washington State University scientist Kulvinder Gill, turned to mathematical modeling, combining their results with approaches that analyze potential partner interactions. These models, developed to understand and clarify complex relationships in physics and biology, allowed the ASU researchers to build a model of consensus – explaining how the IRS partner protein could partner to both epidermal growth factor receptor and the insulin receptor. And while the insulin receptor itself may play no role – as Kamakura's findings suggest – Dolezal and Amdam's findings show that the IRS partner protein may in fact be key to a molecular love triangle, interacting with both receptors, and with the bond to epidermal growth factor receptor being the crowning feature in queen development.
Margaret Coulombe | EurekAlert!
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