Home
This Title All WIREs
WIREs RSS Feed
How to cite this WIREs title:
WIREs Syst Biol Med
Impact Factor: 3.542

Nutritional regulation of division of labor in honey bees: toward a systems biology perspective

Full article on Wiley Online Library:   HTML PDF

Can't access this content? Tell your librarian.

Abstract Organisms adapt their behavior and physiology to environmental conditions through processes of phenotypic plasticity. In one well‐studied example, the division of labor among worker honey bees involves a stereotyped yet plastic pattern of behavioral and physiological maturation. Early in life, workers perform brood care and other in‐hive tasks and have large internal nutrient stores; later in life, they forage for nectar and pollen outside the hive and have small nutrient stores. The pace of maturation depends on colony conditions, and the environmental, physiological, and genomic mechanisms by which this occurs are being actively investigated. Here we review current knowledge of the mechanisms by which a key environmental variable, nutritional status, influences worker honey bee division of labor. These studies demonstrate that changes in individual nutritional status and conserved food‐related molecular and hormonal pathways regulate the age at which individual bees begin to forage. We then outline ways in which systems biology approaches, enabled by the sequencing of the honey bee genome, will allow researchers to gain deeper insight into nutritional regulation of honey bee behavior, and phenotypic plasticity in general. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article is categorized under: Physiology > Physiology of Model Organisms

This WIREs title offers downloadable PowerPoint presentations of figures for non-profit, educational use, provided the content is not modified and full credit is given to the author and publication.

Download a PowerPoint presentation of all images


Changes in brain energy metabolism during worker maturation elucidated by pathway analysis of data from brain microarray experiments. Gene expression data from nurse and forager brains were mapped to energy metabolism pathways compiled by the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes.44 Genes in the tricarboxylic acid pathway (shown) and other energy metabolism pathways were predominantly upregulated in nurse brains relative to foragers.17 Solid lines indicate the predicted enzymatic reactions catalyzed by the product of each gene, listed by its identifier in the Official Gene Set 2 from the honey bee genome sequencing project.21 Dotted lines indicate indirect links to other metabolic pathways. ACLY: ATP citrate (pro‐S)‐lyase; ACO: aconitate hydratase; CS: citrate synthase; DLD: dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase; DLST: dihydrolipoamide succinyltransferase; FH: fumarate hydratase; IDH: isocitrate dehydrogenase; MDH: malate dehydrogenase; OGDH: 2‐oxoglutarate dehydrogenase E1 component; PC: pyruvate carboxylase; PEPCK: phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase; SDH: succinate dehydrogenase; SUCLA: succinate–CoA ligase (ADP‐forming); SUCLG: succinate–CoA ligase (GDP‐forming).

[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

Theoretical model for the role of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) in the regulation of worker division of labor. Signaling through insulin‐like peptides and juvenile hormone (JH) is low in nurses and higher in foragers.17, 76 These hormones regulate gene expression through interactions with transcription factors (TFs), some of which have already been identified in other insect species. Known transcriptional regulators include FoxO, which is involved in insulin action,77 as well as ultraspiracle (usp) and methoprene‐tolerant (met), both of which are associated with JH.78–81 Increased insulin signaling in foragers is likely to repress FoxO target genes by preventing FoxO protein from binding to their promoters.77 Increased JH signaling causes increased usp expression in honey bees,82 as well as other hypothetical changes in target gene activation by USP and MET. According to this framework, interactions among these and other TFs lead to the distinct gene expression profiles of nurses and foragers in brain7, 22 and fat bodies (Ament and Robinson, unpublished data). These hormonally controlled GRNs are hypothesized to be causal for behavioral maturation and stable lipid loss.

[ Normal View | Magnified View ]

Browse by Topic

Physiology > Physiology of Model Organisms

Access to this WIREs title is by subscription only.

Recommend to Your
Librarian Now!

The latest WIREs articles in your inbox

Sign Up for Article Alerts