Secrets of Royal Jelly
In a paper published in Nature by Japanese researcher Masaki Kamakura demonstrates that one protein in royal jelly is the active ingredient that causes a larva becomes a queen bee, which makes the queen bee grow larger than the worker bees and also allows them to live longer.
Initially, experts suspect the age difference and the size of bee queens with worker bees are due to genetic factors. But kamakuri’s work done in Japan shows Royal jelly could be a major player in bringing the difference between Queen and worker bees. Major royal jelly proteins (named MRJP1-5) of honeybee (Apis mellifera), yellow proteins of Drosophila, together with putative proteins found in several bacteria, form a protein family termed the MRJP/yellow family.
In a simple but brilliant elimination experiment, Masaki Kamakura, was able to separate the different substances that comprise royal jelly, later he fed those substances individually to a female bee to see which caused her to take on queen bee traits.
Finally he could narrow down to one particular ingredient, a 57-kDa protein in royal jelly which transformed a normal female bee to one showing traits of queen.
To prove it, Dr. Masaki Kamakura from Toyama Prefectural University compared the effects royalactin of the queen bee with the fruit fly ( Drosophila melanogaster ). Fruit flies are usually small in size, grow larger when given royal jelly.
Mechanistic studies revealed that royalactin activated p70 S6 kinase, which was responsible for the increase of body size, increased the activity of mitogen-activated protein kinase, which was involved in the decreased developmental time, and increased the titre of juvenile hormone, an essential hormone for ovary development.
Knockdown of epidermal growth factor receptor (Egfr) expression in the fat body of honeybees and fruitflies resulted in a defect of all phenotypes induced by royalactin, showing that Egfr mediates these actions. These findings indicate that a specific factor in royal jelly, royalactin, drives queen development through an Egfr-mediated signalling pathway.
Royalactin induces queen differentiation in honeybees
Nature, (2011) doi:10.1038/nature10093