Looking To A New Era In Bee Research

The Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Project (HBGSP), a large scale communal project led by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Human Genome Research Institute, is expected to usher in a bright new era of bee research, benefiting agriculture, biological research and human health.

Papers appearing in the special issue 15:5 of Insect Molecular Biology, a Royal Entomological Society journal, provide new insights into diverse topics in honey bee biology, including neurobiology and the process of caste determination, which results in reproductive queens and largely sterile workers.

They also address some of the challenges faced by honey bees, including analyses of disease resistant pathways and metabolic adaptations to an all floral diet. Several papers address ways that honey bee studies can provide insights into human health. These papers cover the genetic bases of honey bee venom allergens, along with mechanistic insights into the remarkable longevity of queen honey bees and sperm stored in the spermatheca.

The HBGSP has united a broad range of scientists, from leaders in human genomics and bioinformatics to members of diverse disciplinary and organism-based communities, including those studying mammals and humans. A total of 112 individuals in 63 institutions around the world signed on to analyse the newly available honey bee genome sequence, generating exciting results in many areas of biology.

Themes for analysis included Anti-Xenobiotic Defence Mechanisms, Bee Disease and Immunity, Brain and Behaviour, Caste Development and Reproduction, Comparative and Evolutionary Analysis, Development and Metabolism, Gene Regulation, Genome Analysis, Physical and Genetic Mapping and Chromosome Structure, Population Genetics, Repeated Sequences and Transposable Elements.

A principal focus was on the complex honey bee social lifestyle and how it differs from other solitary lifestyle insects. This large communal effort is presented in the special issue of Nature (Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium, 2006), published earlier this week, and in other companion papers.

The Royal Entomological Society’s Insect Molecular Biology Special Issue 15:5 is freely available to read online at www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/imb/15/5

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