Drs. Wheeler and Robinson, from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, recently published the article “Diet-dependent gene expression in honey bees: honey vs. sucrose or high fructose corn syrup” in Nature’s Scientific Reports. The researchers used the NEXTflex Rapid Directional RNA-Seq Kit to prepare Illumina-compatible RNA-Seq libraries from RNA isolated from bees fed honey, sucrose or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to determine if the chronic feeding of these food sources elicited differences in gene expression. Modified expression was seen in genes involved in protein metabolism and oxidation-reduction.
These results suggest that honey, but not sucrose or HFCS, upregulates genes associated with protein metabolism and oxidation reduction. This is indicative that honey elicits health-related physiological differences that are not provided by alternative food sources widely used in apiculture. This is a concern as malnutrition in honey bees is associated with immune system impairment and increased pesticide susceptibility, which have been implicated in recent severe declines in honey bee populations.
Wheeler, M. M. and Robinson G. E. (2014) Diet-dependent gene expression in honey bees: honey vs. sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Scientific Reports. 4: 5726. doi:10.1038/srep05726.