Molecular evolution of genetic sex-determination switch in honeybees

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Posted on December 31, 2013
Molecular evolution of genetic sex-determination switch in honeybees
Arizona State University Provost Robert E. Page, Jr. and scientists in Germany and France have uncovered the key to sex determination in honey bees, one of the most important questions in developmental genetics. Credit: Jacob Sahertian
It’s taken nearly 200 years, but scientists in Arizona and Europe have teased out how the molecular switch for sex gradually and adaptively evolved in the honeybee.

The first genetic mechanism for sex determination was proposed in the mid-1800s by a Silesian monk named Johann Dzierson, according to the study’s co-author and Arizona State University Provost Robert E. Page Jr. Dzierson was trying to understand how males and females were produced in honey bee colonies. He knew that the difference between queen and worker bees – both females – emerged from the different quality and quantity of food. But, what about the males, he asked.

Dzierson posited that males were haploid – possessing one set of chromosomes, which was confirmed in the 1900s with the advent of the microscope. Under the magnifying lens, researchers could see that eggs that gave rise to drones were not penetrated by sperm. However, how this system of haplodiploid sex determination ultimately evolved at a molecular level has remained one of the most important questions in developmental genetics.

 

Read more at: Phys.org



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