Caste-Selective Pheromone Biosynthesis in Honeybees

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Science  29 Mar 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5257, pp. 1851-1853
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5257.1851


Queen and worker honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) produce a caste-related blend of functionalized 8- and 10-carbon fatty acids in their mandibular glands. The biological functions of these compounds match the queen's reproductive and the worker's nonreproductive roles in the colony. Studies with deuterated substrates revealed that the biosynthesis of these acids begins with stearic acid, which is hydroxylated at the 17th or 18th position. The 18-carbon hydroxy acid chains are shortened, and the resulting 10-carbon hydroxy acids are oxidized in a caste-selective manner, thereby determining many of the functional differences between queens and workers.