Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Maternal Effect Causes Alternation of DNA Methylation Regulating Queen Development


  • Xu Jiang He Jiangxi Agricultural University
  • Hao Wei Jiangxi Agricultural University
  • Wu Jun Jiang Jiangxi Agricultural University
  • Yi Bo Liu Jiangxi Agricultural University
  • Xiao Bo Wu Jiangxi Agricultural University
  • Zhijiang Zeng Jiangxi Agricultural University




honeybees, maternal effect, development, caste differentiation, DNA methylation


Queen-worker caste dimorphism is a typical trait for honeybees (Apis mellifera). We previously showed a maternal effect on caste differentiation and queen development, where queens emerged from queen-cell eggs (QE) had higher quality than queens developed from worker cell eggs (WE). In this study, newly-emerged queens were reared from QE, WE, and 2-day worker larvae (2L). The thorax size and DNA methylation levels of queens were measured. We found that queens emerging from QE had significantly larger thorax length and width than WE and 2L. Epigenetic analysis showed that QE/2L comparison had the most different methylated genes (DMGs, 612) followed by WE/2L (473), and QE/WE (371). Interestingly, a great number of DMGs (42) were in genes belonging to mTOR, MAPK, Wnt, Notch, Hedgehog, FoxO, and Hippo signaling pathways that are involved in regulating caste differentiation, reproduction and longevity. This study proved that honeybee maternal effect causes epigenetic alteration regulating caste differentiation and queen development.


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Author Biographies

Xu Jiang He, Jiangxi Agricultural University

Honeybee Research Institute

Hao Wei, Jiangxi Agricultural University

Honeybee Research Institute

Wu Jun Jiang, Jiangxi Agricultural University

Honeybee Research Institute

Yi Bo Liu, Jiangxi Agricultural University

Honeybee Research Institute

Xiao Bo Wu, Jiangxi Agricultural University

Honeybee Research Institute

Zhijiang Zeng, Jiangxi Agricultural University

Honeybee Research Institute


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How to Cite

He, X. J., Wei, H., Jiang, W. J., Liu, Y. B., Wu, X. B., & Zeng, Z. (2021). Honeybee (Apis mellifera) Maternal Effect Causes Alternation of DNA Methylation Regulating Queen Development. Sociobiology, 68(1), e5935. https://doi.org/10.13102/sociobiology.v68i1.5935



Research Article - Bees