Regulation of behaviorally associated gene networks in worker honey bee ovaries

Ying Wang, Sarah D. Kocher, Timothy A. Linksvayer, Christina M. Grozinger, Robert E. Page, Gro V. Amdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Several lines of evidence support genetic links between ovary size and division of labor in worker honey bees. However, it is largely unknown how ovaries influence behavior. To address this question, we first performed transcriptional profiling on worker ovaries from two genotypes that differ in social behavior and ovary size. Then, we contrasted the differentially expressed ovarian genes with six sets of available brain transcriptomes. Finally, we probed behavior-related candidate gene networks in wild-type ovaries of different sizes. We found differential expression in 2151 ovarian transcripts in these artificially selected honey bee strains, corresponding to approximately 20.3% of the predicted gene set of honey bees. Differences in gene expression overlapped significantly with changes in the brain transcriptomes. Differentially expressed genes were associated with neural signal transmission (tyramine receptor, TYR) and ecdysteroid signaling; two independently tested nuclear hormone receptors (HR46 and ftz-f1) were also significantly correlated with ovary size in wild-type bees. We suggest that the correspondence between ovary and brain transcriptomes identified here indicates systemic regulatory networks among hormones (juvenile hormone and ecdysteroids), pheromones (queen mandibular pheromone), reproductive organs and nervous tissues in worker honey bees. Furthermore, robust correlations between ovary size and neural- and endocrine response genes are consistent with the hypothesized roles of the ovaries in honey bee behavioral regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-134
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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