Reproductive protein protects functionally sterile honey bee workers from oxidative stress

Siri Christine Seehuus, Kari Norberg, Ulrike Gimsa, Trygve Krekling, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

445 Scopus citations


Research on aging shows that regulatory pathways of fertility and senescence are closely interlinked. However, evolutionary theories on social species propose that lifelong care for offspring can shape the course of senescence beyond the restricted context of reproductive capability. These observations suggest that control circuits of aging are remodeled in social organisms with continuing care for offspring. Here, we studied a circuit of aging in the honey bee (Apis mellifera). The bee is characterized by the presence of a long-lived reproductive queen caste and a shorter-lived caste of female workers that are life-long alloparental care givers. We focus on the role of the conserved yolk precursor gene vitellogenin that, in Caenorhabditis elegans, shortens lifespan as a downstream element of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling cascade. Vitellogenin protein is synthesized at high levels in honey bee queens and is abundant in long-lived workers. We establish that vitellogenin gene activity protects worker bees from oxidative stress. Our finding suggests that one mechanistic explanation for patterns of longevity in bees is that a reproductive regulatory pathway has been remodeled to extend life. This perspective is of considerable relevance to research on longevity regulation that builds largely on inference from solitary model species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-967
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 24 2006


  • Aging
  • Carbonylation
  • RNA interference
  • Social evolution
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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