In honey bees, complementary sex determiner (csd) is the primary signal of sex determination. Its allelic composition is heterozygous in females, and hemizygous or homozygous in males. To explore the transcriptome differences after sex differentiation between males and females, with genetic differences excluded, csd in fertilized embryos was knocked out by CRISPR/Cas9. The diploid mutant males at 24 h, 48 h, 72 h, and 96 h after egg laying (AEL) and the mock-treated females derived from the same fertilized queen were investigated through RNA-seq. Mutations were detected in the target sequence in diploid mutants. The diploid mutant drones had typical male morphological characteristics and gonads. Transcriptome analysis showed that several female-biased genes, such as worker-enriched antennal (Wat), vitellogenin (Vg), and some venom-related genes, were down-regulated in the diploid mutant males. In contrast, some male-biased genes, such as takeout and apolipophorin-III-like protein (A4), had higher expressions in the diploid mutant males. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) indicated that there might be interactions between csd and fruitless (fru), feminizer (fem) and hexamerin 70c (hex70c), transformer-2 (tra2) and troponin T (TpnT). The information provided by this study will benefit further research on the sex dimorphism and development of honey bees and other insects in Hymenoptera.
Keywords: Apis mellifera; CRISPR/cas9; sex determination; transcriptome.