The nourishment received by female honeybee larvae determines their differentiation into queens or workers. In this study, we report the first molecular analysis of differences that occur between queens and workers during the caste-determination process. RNA-differential display experiments identified a clone that encodes for a gene that is homologous to the nuclear-encoded mitochondrial translation initiation factor (AmIF-2mt). Semi-quantitative analysis by reverse transcriptase/polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) throughout honeybee development detected a higher level of expression of this gene in queen larvae than in worker larvae. Analysis of two other genes encoding mitochondrial proteins, cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COX-1; mitochondrial-encoded) and cytochrome c (cyt c; nuclear-encoded) also showed differential expression of these two genes between queens and workers. In particular, the cyt c transcript is more abundant in queen larvae and throughout the metamorphosis of the queen. These results indicate that the higher respiratory rate previously documented in queen larvae is accomplished through a higher level of expression of both nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded genes for mitochondrial proteins.

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