The gene vitellogenin affects microRNA regulation in honey bee (Apis mellifera) fat body and brain

Francis M F Nunes, Kate E. Ihle, Navdeep S. Mutti, Zilá L P Simões, Gro Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


In honey bees, vitellogenin (Vg) is hypothesized to be a major factor affecting hormone signaling, food-related behavior, immunity, stress resistance and lifespan. MicroRNAs, which play important roles in post-transcriptional gene regulation, likewise affect many biological processes. The actions of microRNAs and Vg are known to intersect in the context of reproduction; however, the role of these associations on social behavior is unknown. The phenotypic effects of Vg knockdown are best established and studied in the forager stage of workers. Thus, we exploited the well-established RNA interference (RNAi) protocol for Vg knockdown to investigate its downstream effects on microRNA population in honey bee foragers' brain and fat body tissue. To identify microRNAs that are differentially expressed between tissues in control and knockdown foragers, we used μParaflo microfluidic oligonucleotide microRNA microarrays. Our results showed that 76 and 74 microRNAs were expressed in the brain of control and knockdown foragers whereas 66 and 69 microRNAs were expressed in the fat body of control and knockdown foragers, respectively. Target prediction identified potential seed matches for a differentially expressed subset of microRNAs affected by Vg knockdown. These candidate genes are involved in a broad range of biological processes including insulin signaling, juvenile hormone (JH) and ecdysteroid signaling previously shown to affect foraging behavior. Thus, here we demonstrate a causal link between the Vg knockdown forager phenotype and variation in the abundance of microRNAs in different tissues, with possible consequences for the regulation of foraging behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3724-3732
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • MicroRNA
  • Microarrays
  • RNAi
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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