Honeybee populations are severely threatened by parasites and diseases. Recent outbreaks of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has caused loss of more than 35% of bee colonies in the USA, and this is thought to at least in part be due to parasites and/or disease. Interestingly, the honeybee possesses of a limited set of immune genes compared to other insects. Non-canonical immune genes of honeybee are of interest because they may provide greater insights into the peculiar nature of the immune system of this social insect. Previous analyses of bee haemolymph upon bacterial challenge identified a novel leucine-rich repeat protein termed IRP30. Here we show that IRP30 behaves as a typical secreted immune protein. It is expressed simultaneously with carboxylesterase upon treatment with bacteria or other elicitors of immune response. Furthermore we characterize the gene and the mRNA encoding this protein and the IRP30 protein itself. Its regulation and evolution reveal that IRP30 belongs to a protein family, distributed broadly among Hymenoptera, suggesting its ancient function in immune response. We document an interesting case of a recent IRP30 loss in the ant Atta cephalotes and hypothesize that a putative IRP30 homolog of Nasonia emerged by convergent evolution rather than diverged from a common ancestor.
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