Effects of microRNA-305 knockdown on brain gene expression associated with division of labor in honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera)

Sarai H. Stuart, Amy C. Cash Ahmed, Laura Kilikevicius, Gene E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Division of labor in honey bee colonies is based on the behavioral maturation of adult workers that involves a transition from working in the hive to foraging. This behavioral maturation is associated with distinct task-related transcriptomic profiles in the brain and abdominal fat body that are related to multiple regulatory factors including juvenile hormone (JH) and queen mandibular pheromone (QMP). A prominent physiological feature associated with behavioral maturation is a loss of abdominal lipid mass as bees transition to foraging. We used transcriptomic and physiological analyses to study whether microRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in the regulation of division of labor. We first identified two miRNAs that showed patterns of expression associated with behavioral maturation, ame-miR-305-5p and ame-miR-375-3p. We then downregulated the expression of these two miRNAs with sequence-specific antagomirs. Neither ame-miR-305-5p nor ame-miR-375-3p knockdown in the abdomen affected abdominal lipid mass on their own. Similarly, knockdown of ame-miR-305-5p in combination with JH or QMP also did not affect lipid mass. By contrast, ame-miR-305-5p knockdown in the abdomen caused substantial changes in gene expression in the brain. Brain gene expression changes included genes encoding transcription factors previously implicated in behavioral maturation. The results of these functional genomic experiments extend previous correlative associations of microRNAs with honey bee division of labor and point to specific roles for ame-miR-305-5p.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb246785
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2024


  • miRNA
  • Gene regulation
  • Sociality
  • Transcription factor
  • Behavioral maturation
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


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