MAR 25, 2019 3:05 PM PDT

Heir to the Throne - the Selection of the Queen Bee

WRITTEN BY: Carly Boyd
In a honeybee hive, the queen bee has a vital role. She is responsible for the production of all of the eggs in the hive, laying about 1,500 identical eggs a day. The worker bees take care of each egg, placing the fertilized eggs into individual honeycombs to nurture as they develop into the next generation of bees. With so many heirs to the throne, how does the queen choose her successor? Scientists have discovered that a special class of worker bees known as “nurse bees,” are actually the selector of the new queen. A special diet of “royal jelly” is fed to specific larvae. This protein-packed goo is responsible for developmental changes in the larvae that turn them into a queen.
The pH of the royal jelly determines its viscosity which determines the development of the Queen bee.
While it is largely unknown how this royal jelly affects specific developmental processes, it is known that the proteins within the royal jelly cause epigenetic changes. Epigenetic changes are the turning off and turning on of particular genes to make certain proteins or kick-start specific cellular pathways that would change the development of the bee into the vastly bigger, fertile, queen bee. While this was originally thought to be the only reason for the royal jelly, Dr. Anja Buttstedt and her team at the Institute for Biology, Zoology in Germany determined two proteins called MRJP1 and apisimin that are responsible for the viscosity of the royal jelly, which holds the potential queen at a certain position in the honeycomb, which affects her development. 
A fibril network within the Royal Jelly that gives it its sticky texture.
Royal jelly is much more acidic than the normal food fed to the other bees, which changes the structure of the protein MRJP1. At the higher acidity, MRJP1 binds with another protein known as apisimin. This complex forms a strong fibril network that causes the royal jelly to hold its shape, and subsequently hold the infant queen in a certain position. It was once thought that MRJP1 was specifically needed to create physiological changes within the queen, but we now know that it is the structural component of the royal jelly that better determines the development of the queen. So just as future queens are pampered in our world, the future queens in the honeybee world are equally as pampered
About the Author
  • Being a master's student in Cell and Molecular Biology, I'm interested in a variety of topics in biology. Currently, I'm researching ways to identify putative enhancer elements for peripheral nervous system development in the genome of Ciona intestinalis (our closest invertebrate relative).
You May Also Like
MAR 21, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Adding Evidence to the RNA World Hypothesis
MAR 21, 2021
Adding Evidence to the RNA World Hypothesis
Did life originate with RNA? Scientists are still trying to learn more about how the first molecules arose out of primor ...
APR 09, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
CRISPR-SNP Chip Finds Point Mutations in DNA Without PCR
APR 09, 2021
CRISPR-SNP Chip Finds Point Mutations in DNA Without PCR
Some diseases, like sickle-cell anemia and familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are due to errors in only a single let ...
APR 23, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
There Are 'Hotspots' of Genomic Repair in Neurons
APR 23, 2021
There Are 'Hotspots' of Genomic Repair in Neurons
It's thought that unlike cell types that are constantly replenishing themselves (like many types of blood cells, for ...
MAY 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Potential Weakness in SARS-CoV-2 is Caught on Video
MAY 04, 2021
A Potential Weakness in SARS-CoV-2 is Caught on Video
You can see the spike protein of the virus in action in this video.
MAY 09, 2021
Microbiology
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
MAY 09, 2021
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
One of the most basic processes in life in the creation of proteins from mRNA molecules, which are transcribed from DNA. ...
MAY 17, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Survey Results: Where Is Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Now?
MAY 17, 2021
Survey Results: Where Is Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Now?
Human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) lines are now commonly used across the globe. In the lab, researchers rely on hPSCs t ...
Loading Comments...