Wednesday, 27 May 2015

From worker to queen at the drop of a gene

Date:May 26, 2015

Source:University of Leicester

Summary:Biologists have discovered that one of nature’s most important pollinators - the buff-tailed bumblebee – either ascends to the status of queen or remains a lowly worker bee based on which genes are ‘turned on’ during its lifespan.

The paper, entitled 'Reproductive workers show queen-like gene expression in an intermediately eusocial insect, the buff-tailed bumble bee Bombus terrestris', which is published in the journal Molecular Ecology, suggests that the development of an individual bumblebee into its designated caste of male, worker or queen depends on the activation of individual genes, despite the bees all sharing similar genomes.

The study is part of student Mark Harrison's PhD thesis and was supervised by Drs Eamonn Mallon and Rob Hammond from the University of Leicester's Department of Biology.

It is the first time the whole genome exploration of caste differentiation has been carried out for the buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, which is now possible due to the recent sequencing of the entire bumblebee genome.

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