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Ovarian regulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging division of labor

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There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside

There is increasing evidence that ovarian status influcences behavioral phenotype in workers of the honey bee Apis mellifera. Honey bee workers demonstrate a complex division of labor. Young workers perform in-hive tasks (e.g. brood care), while older bees perform outside tasks (e.g. foraging for food). This age correlated division of labor is known as temporal polyethism. Foragers demonstrate further division of labor with some bees biasing collection towards protein (pollen) and others towards carbohydrates (nectar). The Reproductive Ground-plan Hypothesis proposes that the ovary plays a regulatory role in foraging division of labor. European honey bee workers that have been selectively bred to store larger amounts of pollen (High strain) also have a higher number of ovarioles per ovary than workers from strains bred to store less pollen (Low strain). High strain bees also initiate foraging earlier than Low strain bees. The relationship between ovariole number and foraging behavior is also observed in wild-type Apis mellifera and Apis cerana: pollen-biased foragers have more ovarioles than nectar-biased foragers. In my first study, I investigated the pre-foraging behavioral patterns of the High and Low strain bees. I found that High strain bees progress through the temporal polyethism at a faster rate than Low strain bees. To ensure that the observed relationship between the ovary and foraging bias is not due to associated separate genes for ovary size and foraging behavior, I investigated foraging behavior of African-European backcross bees. The backcross breeding program was designed to break potential gene associations. The results from this study demonstrated the relationship between the ovary and foraging behavior, supporting the proposed causal linkage between reproductive development and behavioral phenotype. The final study was designed to elucidate a regulatory mechanism that links ovariole number with sucrose sensitivity, and loading decisions. I measured ovariole number, sucrose sensitivity and sucrose solution load size using a rate-controlled sucrose delivery system. I found an interaction effect between ovariole number and sucrose sensitivity for sucrose solution load size. This suggests that the ovary impacts carbohydrate collection through modulation of sucrose sensitivity. Because nectar and pollen collection are not independent, this would also impact protein collection.

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2011

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Immunological and gene regulatory functions of the protein vitellogenin in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

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Vitellogenin (Vg) is an ancient and highly conserved multifunctional protein. It is primarily known for its role in egg-yolk formation but also serves functions pertaining to immunity, longevity, nutrient storage, and oxidative stress relief. In the honey bee (Apis mellifera),

Vitellogenin (Vg) is an ancient and highly conserved multifunctional protein. It is primarily known for its role in egg-yolk formation but also serves functions pertaining to immunity, longevity, nutrient storage, and oxidative stress relief. In the honey bee (Apis mellifera), Vg has evolved still further to include important social functions that are critical to the maintenance and proliferation of colonies. Here, Vg is used to synthesize royal jelly, a glandular secretion produced by a subset of the worker caste that is fed to the queen and young larvae and which is essential for caste development and social immunity. Moreover, Vg in the worker caste sets the pace of their behavioral development as they transition between different tasks throughout their life. In this dissertation, I make several new discoveries about Vg functionality. First, I uncover a colony-level immune pathway in bees that uses royal jelly as a vehicle to transfer pathogen fragments between nestmates. Second, I show that Vg is localized and expressed in the honey bee digestive tract and suggest possible immunological functions it may be performing there. Finally, I show that Vg enters to nucleus and binds to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), acting as a potential transcription factor to regulate expression of many genes pertaining to behavior, metabolism, and signal transduction pathways. These findings represent a significant advance in the understanding of Vg functionality and honey bee biology, and set the stage for many future avenues of research.

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2019