Bee Research is Combing for Answers

The decline in honeybee populations has created some serious buzz over the last decade – and not just among farmers and backyard beekeepers. Many scientists have been bitten by the same bug. Among them is junior biology major Matthew Magee, who – with a Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty (SURF) grant – spent last summer working with biology professor Agnes Ayme-Southgate to investigate the B52 protein in honeybee flight muscles.

Magee, an Aiken fellow in the Honors College, explains that, in a honeybee hive, necessary tasks such as cleaning and finding food are divided between different individuals. Most jobs inside the hive are accomplished by the worker nurses, who are not active fliers. Based on the needs of the hive, the nurses may transition into foragers, whose job is to find food and bring it back to the colony, and, therefore, must be able to fly. Major changes occur to allow flight – including muscle protein modifications that involve a shift in isoforms, a process called alternative splicing. To better understand the bees’ transition, Magee looked at the difference in alternative splicing factors between nurses and foragers and determined which factors were turned down or overproduced during the transition.

Article by Alicia Lutz. Photo by Mike Ledford. For more on this story, check out the full article on the College Today!

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