Genotype effect on lifespan following vitellogenin knockdown

Kate E. Ihle, M. Kim Fondrk, Robert Page, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Honey bee workers display remarkable flexibility in the aging process. This plasticity is closely tied to behavioral maturation. Workers who initiate foraging behavior at earlier ages have shorter lifespans, and much of the variation in total lifespan can be explained by differences in pre-foraging lifespan. Vitellogenin (Vg), a yolk precursor protein, influences worker lifespan both as a regulator of behavioral maturation and through anti-oxidant and immune functions. Experimental reduction of Vg mRNA, and thus Vg protein levels, in wild-type bees results in precocious foraging behavior, decreased lifespan, and increased susceptibility to oxidative damage. We sought to separate the effects of Vg on lifespan due to behavioral maturation from those due to immune and antioxidant function using two selected strains of honey bees that differ in their phenotypic responsiveness to Vg gene knockdown. Surprisingly, we found that lifespans lengthen in the strain described as behaviorally and hormonally insensitive to Vg reduction. We then performed targeted gene expression analyses on genes hypothesized to mediate aging and lifespan: the insulin-like peptides (Ilp1 and 2) and manganese superoxide dismutase (mnSOD). The two honey bee Ilps are the most upstream components in the insulin-signaling pathway, which influences lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster and other organisms, while manganese superoxide dismutase encodes an enzyme with antioxidant functions in animals. We found expression differences in the llps in fat body related to behavior (llp1 and 2) and genetic background (Ilp2), but did not find strain by treatment effects. Expression of mnSOD was also affected by behavior and genetic background. Additionally, we observed a differential response to Vg knockdown in fat body expression of mnSOD, suggesting that antioxidant pathways may partially explain the strain-specific lifespan responses to Vg knockdown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Apis mellifera
  • Foraging
  • Longevity
  • RNA-interference
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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