Nutritional control of reproductive status in honeybees via DNA methylation

Science. 2008 Mar 28;319(5871):1827-30. doi: 10.1126/science.1153069. Epub 2008 Mar 13.


Fertile queens and sterile workers are alternative forms of the adult female honeybee that develop from genetically identical larvae following differential feeding with royal jelly. We show that silencing the expression of DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3, a key driver of epigenetic global reprogramming, in newly hatched larvae led to a royal jelly-like effect on the larval developmental trajectory; the majority of Dnmt3 small interfering RNA-treated individuals emerged as queens with fully developed ovaries. Our results suggest that DNA methylation in Apis is used for storing epigenetic information, that the use of that information can be differentially altered by nutritional input, and that the flexibility of epigenetic modifications underpins, profound shifts in developmental fates, with massive implications for reproductive and behavioral status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics
  • Bees / growth & development
  • Bees / physiology*
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Diet*
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates / metabolism
  • Dynactin Complex
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Fatty Acids
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genes, Insect
  • Larva / cytology
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Reproduction


  • Dinucleoside Phosphates
  • Dynactin Complex
  • Fatty Acids
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • cytidylyl-3'-5'-guanosine
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • royal jelly