Protein love triangle key to crowning bees queens

November 8, 2011

A honey bee becomes a royal queen or a common worker as a result of the food she receives as a larva. While it has been well established that royal jelly is the diet that makes bees queens, the molecular path from food to queen is still in dispute.

However, scientists at Arizona State University, led by Adam Dolezal and Gro Amdam, have helped reconcile some of the conflicts about bee development and the role of insulin pathways and partner proteins. Their article "IIS and TOR nutrient-signaling pathways act via juvenile hormone to influence honey bee cast fate" has been published in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology. Bee larvae raised in the Amdam laboratory Download Full Image

Central to the dispute within the scientific community about “who would be queen” has been a groundbreaking study published in the journal Nature by Japanese scientist Masaki Kamakura in 2011. He found that a single protein in royal jelly, called royalactin, activated queen development in larval bees through interaction with an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Kamakura’s work suggested that insulin signals do not play a role in queen development, despite previous studies suggesting otherwise, including work pioneered with the insulin receptor protein by Amdam’s group.

Undeterred by Kamakura’s findings, Dolezal, a doctoral student, and Amdam, a Pew Biomedical Scholar and professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, looked for ways to resolve the disparity between the research studies. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Amdam’s team’s first step involved taking control of the insulin receptor’s partner protein, IRS, which the insulin receptor relies upon for signaling.

The scientists found that by blocking IRS, they caused a central developmental hormone to crash, which forced larval bees into the worker mold despite their diet of royal jelly. Amdam’s team then “rescued” the now worker-destined bees. They found that by giving the bees hormone treatments, the bees could then develop along the queen trajectory.

However, while Dolezal and Amdam’s studies showed that they could block queen development, and then rescue it, and clarified the role of IRS in the queen-making process, their work could not resolve the remaining conflict with Kamakura’s results. 

Taking a new tack, the Amdam group, which also included Navdeep Mutti, Florian Wolschin, and Jasdeep Mutti, and Washington State University scientist Kulvinder Gill, turned to mathematical modeling, combining their results with approaches that analyze potential partner interactions.

These models, developed to understand and clarify complex relationships in physics and biology, allowed the ASU researchers to build a model of consensus – explaining how the IRS partner protein could partner to both epidermal growth factor receptor and the insulin receptor.

And while the insulin receptor itself may play no role – as Kamakura’s findings suggest – Dolezal and Amdam’s findings show that the IRS partner protein may in fact be key to a molecular love triangle, interacting with both receptors, and with the bond to epidermal growth factor receptor being the crowning feature in queen development.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


Quotes: Osweiler's recaps loss to UCLA, focused on WSU

November 8, 2011


“Well, I don’t know if you ever fully recover from a game like that. It’s something that definitely just takes time, but it’s Monday – it’s time to move on. I have moved on. I’m breaking down Washington State right now. I’m going to continue to do that the rest of the day and just focus on the Cougars. As bad as it hurts, you have to move on past those games. Because, you know what? Today’s a new opportunity. This is a new week and we have a new challenge ahead of us.” Download Full Image


“You don’t change anything. There are little tricks that I’ve picked up throughout high school to help stay warm, keep some blood moving in your fingers, to hang onto the ball. It’s going to be fun. I’m excited. I haven’t played in weather like that for quite some time. But, I don’t know if any of the guys, if not many of them on this team, have ever done that. So, it will be a new challenge for us. But, I look forward to it. Like I said, it will be fun. Maybe we’ll be making snow angels and stuff. Who knows?” 


“I’m going to keep those for myself. But, there are little things. My dad kind of passed them down and coaches. When you live in Montana and you’re playing high school football games in November, you definitely pick up little things to help keep yourself warm.”


“I do. And I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a lot of family and friends from the Montana, Washington and Idaho area coming over for the game. Pullman is about five hours from my hometown. So, I really look forward to seeing a lot of people who I haven’t seen in quite some time.”


“I think the biggest key is to get guys to focus on Washington State and move past it. This game – it hurts extremely bad, but there’s no time to sulk. You have to move on. That’s what we’re going to do. And that’s just my biggest thing this week – just getting guys to focus on Washington State and moving past the UCLA loss. 


“There’s always positives and negatives in a football game, whether you win or lose. I think the offense did some really good things on Saturday. There were times where maybe we could have sealed the game and we didn’t do that. Obviously, that’s one of the negatives. But, on the positive side, we put together some solid drives, some very long drives at crucial times. Even that last one – we got our kicker into field goal range and that’s all you can ask for out of an offense. I was very proud with how the guys played, especially the offensive line. That might have been their best game all year. From the running game to the passing game – I wasn’t even touched. I didn’t really feel people most of the night. So, I thought the offensive line played tremendously.”


“Not really. They pretty much stuck with what they had been running all game. They tried doubling some of our guys, and when they did that, I noticed it and just came back to the other side. G-Rob (Gerell Robinson) did a great job of finding a hole on one of our vertical routes. From an offensive standpoint, that’s all you can do at the end of a game – give your kicker a chance. I was very proud of the guys for stepping up in the moment.”


“There was just one big thing and it should be highlighted really big and it’s called progressions. It’s hard for me to explain the exact situation; but, there was a time and point in that game, very late in the game, where if I would have been on my normal progression – I kind of went away, thinking something different – but, if I would have stuck to what Coach Mazzone has taught me to do, we might have a W in that column right now. But, that’s just the biggest thing – stay on progressions, regardless of what you think in the time and place. Your progressions won’t lie to you. The guy is either going to be open or move on to the next one. “ 


“It was right after the kick return. We knocked the ball out and I believe it was third down. We called a mesh route and I went G-Rob to Mike (Willie), where if I would have went Pflu (Aaron Pflugrad) to Jamal (Miles), Jamal was walking into that end zone. But, that’s just part of the quarterback. I thought one thing – where, if I would have stuck with what Coach had taught me to do, and been disciplined in the moment, we might be in a different situation right now. But, that’s why football is a fun sport. You have your ups and your downs, but you just have to make sure that you learn from those moments. Trust me, I have. I’ve learned from this one.” 

ON Cameron Marshall:

“Cameron’s a monster. When guys hit him, he’s not going down that first time. He’s probably not going down that second time. Guys really have to gang tackle him. He does a great job of keeping his feet moving. He has great vision. Cameron – I could go on and on about him. He’s a tremendous teammate, especially in the past game, too. He knows the protection just as well as anybody. He understands what he’s supposed to do and he gets his job done. So, to have Cameron healthy is a huge asset for this football team. I’m definitely happy to have him back at full strength.”


“They’re a good football team. They’ve played a lot of people very tough. I don’t know if their record exactly shows how good they really are. I expect a great football game out of them. They’re going to be on their home field, playing a night game. I expect a great atmosphere and a great fight out of them.”


“They like to play zone – two-deep zone. Every once in awhile, they might jump into a three-dial front and play a little man or a two-max coverage. But, they like to play cover-eight. Whether they stay in that, we’ll find out Saturday if they want to change things up for us. But, we’ll be ready to make changes on the fly if we have to.”