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Open Access Research article

Hemolymph proteome changes during worker brood development match the biological divergences between western honey bees (Apis mellifera) and eastern honey bees (Apis cerana)

Mao Feng, Haitham Ramadan, Bin Han, Yu Fang and Jianke Li*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Apicultural Research/Key Laboratory of Pollinating Insect Biology, Ministry of Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, Beijing 100093, China

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:563  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-563

Published: 5 July 2014



Hemolymph plays key roles in honey bee molecule transport, immune defense, and in monitoring the physiological condition. There is a lack of knowledge regarding how the proteome achieves these biological missions for both the western and eastern honey bees (Apis mellifera and Apis cerana). A time-resolved proteome was compared using two-dimensional electrophoresis-based proteomics to reveal the mechanistic differences by analysis of hemolymph proteome changes between the worker bees of two bee species during the larval to pupal stages.


The brood body weight of Apis mellifera was significantly heavier than that of Apis cerana at each developmental stage. Significantly, different protein expression patterns and metabolic pathways were observed in 74 proteins (166 spots) that were differentially abundant between the two bee species. The function of hemolymph in energy storage, odor communication, and antioxidation is of equal importance for the western and eastern bees, indicated by the enhanced expression of different protein species. However, stronger expression of protein folding, cytoskeletal and developmental proteins, and more highly activated energy producing pathways in western bees suggests that the different bee species have developed unique strategies to match their specific physiology using hemolymph to deliver nutrients and in immune defense.


Our disparate findings constitute a proof-of-concept of molecular details that the ecologically shaped different physiological conditions of different bee species match with the hemolymph proteome during the brood stage. This also provides a starting point for future research on the specific hemolymph proteins or pathways related to the differential phenotypes or physiology.

Apis mellifera ligustica; Apis cerana cerana; Larvae; Pupae; Hemolymph; Proteome