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Open Access Research article

Proteomics analysis reveals protein expression differences for hypopharyngeal gland activity in the honeybee, Apis mellifera carnica Pollmann

Ting Ji1*, Zhenguo Liu1, Jie Shen1, Fang Shen1, Qin Liang2, Liming Wu3, Guohong Chen1* and Miguel Corona4

Author Affiliations

1 College of Animal Science and Technology, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, Jiangsu, China

2 College of Bee Science, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou, China

3 Institute of Apiculture Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China

4 USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:665  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-665

Published: 8 August 2014

Abstract

Background

Most of the proteins contained in royal jelly (RJ) are secreted from the hypopharyngeal glands (HG) of young bees. Although generic protein composition of RJ has been investigated, little is known about how age-dependent changes on HG secretion affect RJ composition and their biological consequences. In this study, we identified differentially expressed proteins (DEPs) during HG development by using the isobaric tag for relative and absolute quantification (iTRAQ) labeling technique. This proteomic method increases the potential for new protein discovery by improving the identification of low quantity proteins.

Results

A total of 1282 proteins were identified from five age groups of worker bees, 284 of which were differentially expressed. 43 (15.1%) of the DEPs were identified for the first time. Comparison of samples at day 6, 9, 12, and 16 of development relative to day 3 led to the unambiguous identification of 112, 117, 127, and 127 DEPs, respectively. The majority of these DEPs were up-regulated in the older worker groups, indicating a substantial change in the pattern of proteins expressed after 3 days. DEPs were identified among all the age groups, suggesting that changes in protein expression during HG ontogeny are concomitant with different states of worker development. A total of 649 proteins were mapped to canonical signaling pathways found in the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG), which were preferentially associated with metabolism and biosynthesis of secondary metabolites. More than 10 key high-abundance proteins were involved in signaling pathways related to ribosome function and protein processing in the endoplasmic reticulum. The results were validated by qPCR.

Conclusion

Our approach demonstrates that HG experienced important changes in protein expression during its ontogenic development, which supports the secretion of proteins involved in diverse functions in adult workers beyond its traditional role in royal jelly production.

Keywords:
Hypopharyngeal gland; Quantitative proteomics; iTRAQ; Secreted protein