Background: Studies of specification of germ-cells in insect embryos has indicated that in many taxa the germ cells form early in development, and their formation is associated with pole plasm, germ plasm or an organelle called the oosome. None of these morphological features associated with germ cell formation have been identified in the Honeybee Apis mellifera. In this study I report the cloning and expression analysis of Honeybee homologues of vasa and nanos, germ cell markers in insects and other animals.
Results: Apis vasa and nanos RNAs are present in early honeybee embryos, but the RNAs clear rapidly, without any cells expressing these germ cell markers past stage 2. These genes are then only expressed in a line of cells in the abdomen from stage 9 onwards. These cells are the developing germ cells that are moved dorsally by dorsal closure and are placed in the genital ridge.
Conclusion: This study of the expression of germ cell markers in the honeybee implies that in this species either germ cells are formed by an inductive event, late in embryogenesis, or they are formed early in development in the absence of vasa and nanos expression. This contrasts with germ cell development in other members of the Hymenoptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera.