Abundant small RNAs in the reproductive tissues and eggs of the honey bee, Apis mellifera

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Watson, Owen T, Buchmann, Gabriel, Young, Paul, Lo, Kitty, Remnant, Emily J, Yagound, Boris, Shambrook, Mitch, Hill, Andrew F ORCID: 0000-0001-5581-2354, Oldroyd, Benjamin P and Ashe, Alyson (2022) Abundant small RNAs in the reproductive tissues and eggs of the honey bee, Apis mellifera. BMC Genomics, 23. ISSN 1471-2164


Background: Polyandrous social insects such as the honey bee are prime candidates for parental manipulation of gene expression in offspring. Although there is good evidence for parent-of-origin effects in honey bees the epigenetic mechanisms that underlie these effects remain a mystery. Small RNA molecules such as miRNAs, piRNAs and siRNAs play important roles in transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and in the regulation of gene expression during development. Results: Here we present the first characterisation of small RNAs present in honey bee reproductive tissues: ovaries, spermatheca, semen, fertilised and unfertilised eggs, and testes. We show that semen contains fewer piRNAs relative to eggs and ovaries, and that piRNAs and miRNAs which map antisense to genes involved in DNA regulation and developmental processes are differentially expressed between tissues. tRNA fragments are highly abundant in semen and have a similar profile to those seen in the semen of other animals. Intriguingly we also find abundant piRNAs that target the sex determination locus, suggesting that piRNAs may play a role in honey bee sex determination. Conclusions: We conclude that small RNAs may play a fundamental role in honey bee gametogenesis and reproduction and provide a plausible mechanism for parent-of-origin effects on gene expression and reproductive physiology.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/46650
DOI 10.1186/s12864-022-08478-9
Official URL https://bmcgenomics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10....
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3109 Zoology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords honey bees, RNA, gene expression, epigenetic inheritance
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