The distinct honeybee (Apis mellifera) worker and queen castes have become a model for the study of genomic mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity. Here we performed a nanopore-based direct RNA sequencing with exceptionally long reads to compare the mRNA transcripts between queen and workers at three points during their larval development. We found thousands of significantly differentially expressed transcript isoforms (DEIs) between queen and worker larvae. These DEIs were formatted by a flexible splicing system. We showed that poly(A) tails participated in this caste differentiation by negatively regulating the expression of DEIs. Hundreds of isoforms uniquely expressed in either queens or workers during their larval development, and isoforms were expressed at different points in queen and worker larval development demonstrating a dynamic relationship between isoform expression and developmental mechanisms. These findings show the full complexity of RNA processing and transcript expression in honey bee phenotypic plasticity.
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