Michigan State researcher traces the evolution of honey bee gender

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A first-of-its-kind evolutionary strategy discovered among invertebrate organisms or honey bees shows how a complex genetic mechanism determines gender and maximizes gene transmission to the next generation of several bee species, according to Michigan State University researchers.

The research of Zachary Huang, MSU associate professor in the Department of Entomology, and his colleagues will be featured in the Oct. 26 edition of the journal Genome Research.

"This research gives us a better understanding of the sex-determining system of honey bees, as well as the age and evolutionary history of the csd (complementary sex determination) gene," Huang said. "The various versions of the csd genes are shared among honey bees. They evolved before they became different species."

In addition, the findings also will allow breeders to design better and more efficient mating systems. Breeders more easily will be able to raise new queens to lead hives.

This research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Office of Vice President for Research of the University of Michigan, the University of Kansas General Research Fund and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

The csd gene determines the difference between a male and female honey bee, according to Huang. His research shows this method of sex determination first appeared in a shared ancestor of the European and three Asian honey bee species.

In humans, sex is determined by the combination of sex-determining chromosomes one has. In females, both sex-determining chromosomes are the same XX; for males the two chromosomes are different XY.

Honey bees do things a bit differently. Specific combinations of the csd gene regulate the gender and social roles of each honey bee.

In the past, scientists thought the sex determination of offspring was left purely up to the queen, Huang said. Scient

Contact: Zachary Huang
Michigan State University

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