Genetic architecture of a hormonal response to gene knockdown in honey bees

Kate E. Ihle, Olav Rueppell, Zachary Y. Huang, Ying Wang, M. Kim Fondrk, Robert Page, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Variation in endocrine signaling is proposed to underlie the evolution and regulation of social life histories, but the genetic architecture of endocrine signaling is still poorly understood. An excellent example of a hormonally influenced set of social traits is found in the honey bee (Apis mellifera): a dynamic and mutually suppressive relationship between juvenile hormone (JH) and the yolk precursor protein vitellogenin (Vg) regulates behavioral maturation and foraging of workers. Several other traits cosegregate with these behavioral phenotypes, comprising the pollen hoarding syndrome (PHS) one of the best-described animal behavioral syndromes. Genotype differences in responsiveness of JH to Vg are a potential mechanistic basis for the PHS. Here, we reduced Vg expression via RNA interference in progeny from a backcross between 2 selected lines of honey bees that differ in JH responsiveness to Vg reduction and measured JH response and ovary size, which represents another key aspect of the PHS. Genetic mapping based on restriction site-associated DNA tag sequencing identified suggestive quantitative trait loci (QTL) for ovary size and JH responsiveness. We confirmed genetic effects on both traits near many QTL that had been identified previously for their effect on various PHS traits. Thus, our results support a role for endocrine control of complex traits at a genetic level. Furthermore, this first example of a genetic map of a hormonal response to gene knockdown in a social insect helps to refine the genetic understanding of complex behaviors and the physiology that may underlie behavioral control in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Apis mellifera
  • Complex trait genetics
  • Genetic architecture juvenile hormone
  • Social evolution
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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