Non-targeted lipidomics and transcriptomics analysis reveal the molecular underpinnings of mandibular gland development in Apis mellifera ligustica

Dev Biol. 2021 Nov;479:23-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2021.07.016. Epub 2021 Jul 30.


The mandibular gland is an important exocrine gland of worker bees, which mainly secretes fatty acids and pheromones. Lipids have important roles in energy storage, membrane structure stabilization, and signaling. However, molecular underpinnings of mandibular gland development and lipid remodeling at the different physiological stages of worker bees is still lacking. In this study, we used scanning and transmission electron microscopy to reveal the morphological changes in secretory cells, and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and RNA-seq to investigate the lipidome and gene transcripts during development. The morphology of secretory cells was flat in newly emerged workers, becoming vacuolated and turgid when they were activated in nurse bees and foragers. Transport vesicles became denser from newly emerged bees to 21-day worker bees. Concentrations of 10-HDA reached a maximum within 15d workers and changes in genes expression were consistent with 10-HDA content. Non-targeted lipidomics analysis of newly emerged, 6d, and 15d worker bees revealed that PC and TAG were the main lipids in mandibular gland, and lipids dramatically altered across developmental stages. TAG 54:4 was increased most strongly at 6d and 15d worker bees, meanwhile, the abundances of TAG 54:1 and TAG 54:2 were decreased sharply. Further, transcriptomics analysis showed that differentially expressed genes were significantly enriched in key nutrient metabolic pathways, particularly lipid metabolism, in 6d and 15d bees. This multi-omic perspective provides a unique resource and deeper insight into bee mandibular gland development and baseline data for further study of the mandibular gland in worker bees.

Keywords: Apis mellifera ligustica; Development; Lipidomics; Mandibular gland; Transcriptome.