Peptide biomarkers used for the selective breeding of a complex polygenic trait in honey bees

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 21;7(1):8381. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-08464-2.


We present a novel way to select for highly polygenic traits. For millennia, humans have used observable phenotypes to selectively breed stronger or more productive livestock and crops. Selection on genotype, using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and genome profiling, is also now applied broadly in livestock breeding programs; however, selection on protein/peptide or mRNA expression markers has not yet been proven useful. Here we demonstrate the utility of protein markers to select for disease-resistant hygienic behavior in the European honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). Robust, mechanistically-linked protein expression markers, by integrating cis- and trans- effects from many genomic loci, may overcome limitations of genomic markers to allow for selection. After three generations of selection, the resulting marker-selected stock outperformed an unselected benchmark stock in terms of hygienic behavior, and had improved survival when challenged with a bacterial disease or a parasitic mite, similar to bees selected using a phenotype-based assessment for this trait. This is the first demonstration of the efficacy of protein markers for industrial selective breeding in any agricultural species, plant or animal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Bees / growth & development*
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Genotype
  • Multifactorial Inheritance*
  • Peptides / analysis*
  • Selective Breeding*


  • Biomarkers
  • Peptides