Insulin-like peptides (amilp1 and amilp2) differentially affect female caste development in the honey bee (apis mellifera l.)

Ying Wang, Sergio V. Azevedo, Klaus Hartfelder, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


SUMMARY The food a honey bee female larva receives determines whether she develops into a large long-lived fertile queen or a short-lived sterile worker. Through well-established nutrient-sensing and growth-promoting functions in metazoans, the insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 signaling (IIS) pathway has become a focal topic in investigations on how differences in food environment can be translated into internal signals responsible for queen-worker determination. However, low expression levels of two insulin receptors (AmInRs) in honey bee larvae and the failure of one AmInR to influence caste differentiation are in potential conflict with such a classical growth-promoting role of IIS in queen-worker development. In view of such an apparent contradiction, and the fact that binding partners and affinities of these two AmInRs have not been worked out, we performed a functional study on insulin-like peptide genes (AmILP1 and AmILP2) in honey bee larvae by using a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-mediated gene knockdown approach. We found that juvenile hormone (JH) levels were diminished by AmILP1 dsRNA treatment, while the AmILP2 knockdown caused a reduction in ovary size. Blood sugar titers were not significantly affected by the treatments. From these results we conclude that AmILP2 transcript levels may influence specific organ development, such as the ovary and body mass, while more general traits of caste differentiation, such as mandibles, may require additional regulators. In addition, JH production may be regulated by AmILP1 expressed locally in the brain, similar to the function of certain ILPs in Drosophila.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4347-4357
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Body mass
  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Caste development
  • Insulin/insulin-like growth factor 1 signaling (IIS)
  • Juvenile hormone (JH)
  • Morphological trait
  • Ovariole number
  • Queen-worker differentiation
  • RNA interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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