Ecological adaptation of diverse honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations

Robert Parker, Andony P. Melathopoulos, Rick White, Stephen F. Pernal, M. Marta Guarna, Leonard J. Foster

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Honey bees are complex eusocial insects that provide a critical contribution to human agricultural food production. Their natural migration has selected for traits that increase fitness within geographical areas, but in parallel their domestication has selected for traits that enhance productivity and survival under local conditions. Elucidating the biochemical mechanisms of these local adaptive processes is a key goal of evolutionary biology. Proteomics provides tools unique among the major 'omics disciplines for identifying the mechanisms employed by an organism in adapting to environmental challenges. Results: Through proteome profiling of adult honey bee midgut from geographically dispersed, domesticated populations combined with multiple parallel statistical treatments, the data presented here suggest some of the major cellular processes involved in adapting to different climates. These findings provide insight into the molecular underpinnings that may confer an advantage to honey bee populations. Significantly, the major energy-producing pathways of the mitochondria, the organelle most closely involved in heat production, were consistently higher in bees that had adapted to colder climates. In opposition, up-regulation of protein metabolism capacity, from biosynthesis to degradation, had been selected for in bees from warmer climates. Conclusions: Overall, our results present a proteomic interpretation of expression polymorphisms between honey bee ecotypes and provide insight into molecular aspects of local adaptation or selection with consequences for honey bee management and breeding. The implications of our findings extend beyond apiculture as they underscore the need to consider the interdependence of animal populations and their agro-ecological context.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere11096
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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