Unravelling honey bee genes and the importance of bees as pollinators
In a collaborative effort CSIRO scientists uncovered valuable information as part of the Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Project.
4 July 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011
CSIRO scientists, with their Australian and international colleagues, have made significant contributions to knowledge on one of the world’s most important insects, the European honey bee. They were involved in the sequencing of the honey bee genome and studying the importance of pollinators in crop production.
The findings from the Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Project were published in Nature in the paper Insights into social insects from the genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera. CSIRO scientists were part of the international consortium, with a Visiting Fellow at CSIRO leading one of the teams.
This was the first sequencing of a social organism other than a human and provides valuable information for ongoing study.
Research on the honey bee genome may provide clues to understanding human aging and cancer.
Other science journals simultaneously published papers based on bee research and CSIRO scientists were authors on several of these. Topics included:
The sequencing of the genome provided insights into why honeybees are sensitive to insecticides.
One group revealed in their paper, A deficit of detoxification enzymes: pesticide sensitivity and environmental response in the honeybee in Insect Molecular Biology, that the honey bee genome has fewer protein coding genes than other insects that have been studied. Some of the most marked differences occur in groups of detoxifying enzymes associated with insecticide resistance in other species.
Another international group showed that honeybees, unlike other insects studied so far, have a similar telomere system to humans. Their discovery of a simple telomere system and the identification of the gene for telomerase in the honeybee will allow the study of the role of telomerase in the very different ageing of the three bee castes and this may provide clues to understanding human ageing and cancers.
Their paper Canonical TTAGG-repeat telomeres and telomerase in the honey bee Apis mellifera was published in Genome Research.
The importance of crop pollination by the European honey bee was revealed in a paper, Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The research, which confirmed that one in three mouthfuls of food comes from insect pollinated crops, revealed just how important bees are to global crop production.
For more images: Dr Denis Anderson: researching biological threats to honeybees and pollination.
Learn more about research by CSIRO Entomology.
Klein A-M, Vaissiere B, Cane JH, Steffan-Dewenter I, Cunningham SA, Kremen C, Tscharntke T. 2007. Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 274: 303-313.
Claudianos C, Ranson H, Johnson RM, Biswas S, Schuler MA, Berenbaum MR, Feyereisen R, Oakeshott JG. 2006. A deficit of detoxification enzymes: pesticide sensitivity and environmental response in the honeybee. Royal Entomological Society. 15: 615–636.
Robertson HM, Gordon KHJ. 2006. Canonical TTAGG-repeat telomeres and telomerase in the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Genome Research. 16: 1345-1351.
Honeybee Genome. 2006. Nature. 443: 884-948.