Honeybee workers are essentially sterile female helpers that make up the majority of individuals in a colony. Workers display a marked change in physiology when they transition from in-nest tasks to foraging. Recent technological advances have made it possible to unravel the metabolic modifications associated with this transition. Previous studies have revealed extensive remodeling of brain, thorax, and hypopharyngeal gland biochemistry. However, data on changes in the abdomen is scarce. To narrow this gap we investigated the proteomic composition of abdominal tissue in the days typically preceding the onset of foraging in honeybee workers. In order to get a broader representation of possible protein dynamics, we used workers of two genotypes with differences in the age at which they initiate foraging. This approach was combined with RNA interference-mediated downregulation of an insulin/insulin-like signaling component that is central to foraging behavior, the insulin receptor substrate (irs), and with measurements of glucose and lipid levels. Our data provide new insight into the molecular underpinnings of phenotypic plasticity in the honeybee, invoke parallels with vertebrate metabolism, and support an integrated and irs-dependent association of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism with the transition from in-nest tasks to foraging.
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