Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Royalactin, the protein fit for queens!

Countless generations of bee keepers had always been curious as to how queen bees developed from the same larvae that became worker bees. Jung-Hoffman seems to have been the first to discover the role of specific jellies and caste determination back in the late 60s, but ever since having discovered royal jelly scientists have wondered what specific chemical was causal to making larvae into queens.

The answer has finally been discovered, and the protein is has been aptly dubbed "royalactin" by japanese researcher Masaki Kamakura of Toyama Prefectural University, Japan.

New Scientist published an article on the discovery yesterday.

"There's more than one way to turn a commoner into royalty. Honeybees create queens by feeding their larvae royal jelly, the secret ingredient of which has now been identified.
Masaki Kamakura of Toyama Prefectural University in Imizu, Japan, stored royal jelly at 40 °C for 30 days, feeding it to bee larvae at intervals. Its regal effect gradually weakened, suggesting the key ingredient was decaying. He then fed larvae deactivated jelly with each batch laced with a different compound that was subject to decay. Only one caused the larvae to turn into queens: a protein Kamakura calls royalactin.
To find out how royalactin works, Kamakura added it to the diet of fruit fly larvae. This made them grow larger and lay more eggs, as in bees. Kamakura found that royalactin works by switching on the gene that codes for Egfr, a protein found throughout the animal kingdom.
This suggests a pre-existing mechanism was repurposed to produce the bee caste system, says Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. When insects first formed eusocial colonies, queens and workers must have been physically identical, he says, and the distinct castes came later, created by royalactin or something like it."
My grandfather, a hobby bee keeper, will no doubt be pleased!

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