Research Highlights | Published:

Zoology: Queen Bee

Nature volume 456, page 840 (18 December 2008) | Download Citation


Fertile queen honeybees (Apis mellifera; pictured, queen shown centre) and sterile workers develop from genetically identical larvae, but the former are fed royal jelly, whereas the latter gobble less sophisticated food. In March, researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra discovered how the jelly might confer royal status.

When Ryszard Maleszka and his colleagues silenced the expression of a DNA methyltransferase enzyme called Dnmt3 in larvae, 72% of them developed into queens, as though they had been fed royal jelly. This enzyme has an important role in packaging DNA across the genome and thus influences gene expression.

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