Epigenetic basis of nutrition-mediated development in the honeybee

Paul Hurd (primary)
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Queen Mary University of London
José M. Martín-Durán (secondary)
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Queen Mary University of London


The honeybee is an important model organism for understanding epigenetic mechanisms. The genome encodes three phenotypically distinct but genetically indistinguishable organisms/castes (queens, workers and drones) that are determined during early post-embryonic development by differential nutrition. The molecular mechanisms responsible for this differential development are unknown but through previous BBSRC funding, we were the first to demonstrate that queen and worker honeybees have caste-specific chromatin epigenetic states that establish and orchestrate distinct patterns of gene expression that determine developmental trajectory. Building on this work, the PhD project will examine the role of specific dietary components as epigenetic modulators of phenotypic plasticity.


1. Wojciechowski, M., Lowe, R., Maleszka, J., Conn, D., Maleszka, R. & Hurd, P. J. (2018) Phenotypically distinct female castes in honey bees are defined by alternative chromatin states during larval development. Genome Res. 28, 1532-1542.

2. Dickman, M. J., Kucharski, R., Maleszka, R. & Hurd, P. J. (2013) Extensive histone post-translational modification in the honey bee. Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol. 43, 125-137.

3. Spannhoff, A., Kim, Y. K., Raynal, N. J., Gharibyan, V., Su, M. B., Zhou, Y. Y., Li, J., Castellano, S., Sbardella, G., Issa, J. P. & Bedford, M. T. (2011) Histone deacetylase inhibitor activity in royal jelly might facilitate caste switching in bees. EMBO Rep. 12, 238-243.

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BiochemistryBioinformaticsMolecular Biology