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Honeybee Genome Sequenced 67

mapkinase writes to let us know about articles in Nature on the completed sequencing of the honeybee genome. From the first article: "Two other insects have already been sequenced: the malaria-carrying mosquito Anopheles gambiae, and one of science's great model organisms, the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Like these, the bee is much easier to manipulate and study than, say, the monkey. But unlike the mosquito and the fruitfly, the bee's social behavior is of special interest." Another article in the same issue clarifies why this sequencing is important: "The genome is helping to reveal some of those [such as the bees' dance language and the division of labor in the hive] mechanisms. For instance, there are 65 spots in the genome that seem to code for short RNA molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs), molecular switches that can turn genes on or off. The researchers found that miRNA activity differs between bees doing different jobs."
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Honeybee Genome Sequenced

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  • miRNA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Interesting that miRNA could be turned off and on. These play a role in helping dicer form the RISC, so I wonder what this may lead to, not only in terms of info on honeybee's social behavior, but RNAi.
    • Re:miRNA? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tatarize ( 682683 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:43PM (#16623990) Homepage
      It's neat to find, but it had to be there. Each bee has the same core DNA. The drones and queen and each sub variety of bee all use the same DNA. For the geeks in the audience who aren't bio-geeks as well.

      Make Wings;
      Make Thorax;
      Make Head;
      Size = 10;
      if (Bee == Queen){//miRNA
              Size = 30;
              Behavior = "Go around laying eggs";
      else {
              Size = 10;
              Behavior = "Go around gathering honey";

      Give or take. miRNA goes around turning off certain gene stuff. I'm too lazy to RTFA, but I'd like to know the relationship between miRNA and royal jelly.
      • Re:miRNA? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @05:36PM (#16625256) Journal
        Not exactly. More like:

        Make Wings;
        Make Thorax;
        Make Head;
        Size = 10;
        if (GrowthStoppingHormonePresent == false){
                        if (OtherQueenPresent == true){kill it;}
                        Spray Growth Stopping Hormone On All Bees Around You;
                        Behavior = "Go around gathering honey";

      • by GLneo ( 993471 )
        too bad god hasn't GPL'ed the bee DNA like he did humans: []
    • Interesting that miRNA could be turned off and on.
      I didn't RTFA, but the summary says:
      molecular switches that can turn genes on or off
  • How long before we can expect genetically milk and honey-producing cows? (or, indeed, cow overlords)

    C'mon I want this to put on my cereal!
  • How cool. (Score:5, Funny)

    by DrunkenTerror ( 561616 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:33PM (#16623928) Homepage Journal
    I bet this creates quite a buzz among genome researchers.
  • softICE, anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:41PM (#16623972) Homepage
    Is it just me, or does the whole DNA/Genome decoding process sound like rather complex dis-assembly project? Every living thing on this planet is nothing but a quad-nary based executable with VERY VERY good error-correction duplication.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nigel Stepp ( 446 )
      Oh, it's much worse than that. Imagine if the opcode for ADD, say, would add to BX if it were after a JMP, but to AX if it were after a MOV.

      Many of the features of biology are context dependent, which makes predicative analysis quite difficult.
    • Or you could spend 5 years getting an advanced degree in micro-biology and find out that there's a little more to it than that, eh ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Very RY VERY good error-correction duplication

      Uhh. ohhh. quite the opposite. Error correction is very bad (by IT standards at least) -that is how actually things evolve (since there is no mechanism for modification except mutation - which is an error). On average every single cell in human body has at least one error. Granted absolute majority of them are insignificant (since they happen on non functioning parts of code for this cell) .

      Living organism are quite a freaking mess from engineer's p
      • by anubi ( 640541 )
        Yes, but what I find so astounding is that we will run for about 70 years without reboot.

        In damn near all programming work I have ever done, the slightest error usually resulted in an immediate terminal fault or worse, a BSOD.

        When I consider that my entire biological OS - everything that coded me for what I am - consists of about 1 gigabyte of code ( considering human DNA consists of 3 billion base pair; 3 base pair to a codon; codon roughly equivalent to byte ), I can hardly consider my coding shoddy. I

        • Yes, but what I find so astounding is that we will run for about 70 years without reboot.

          Ermm.. you can't boast 5 nines of uptime either. And it doesn't take 20 years just to boot up and do anything remotely useful.

          In damn near all programming work I have ever done, the slightest error usually resulted in an immediate terminal fault or worse, a BSOD.
          I don't see any more "bang for the buck" as I see in biology.
          If I spent the rest of my life in front of a DNA sequencer, I doubt I could code to get t
          • by anubi ( 640541 )
            By any chance, are you working in genomics?

            For me, DNA is like being given a 1 gigabyte ROM containing the complete OS of an unknown system. I am not given the instruction set of the machine...just the raw source. Its up to me to diddle the code- see what the machine does, and from this, deduce how the machine works.

            Quite a puzzle.

            I envy the guys that are in the middle of this. But I do not envy them the "pressure to show progress" when dealing with such an unknown.

    • by mikael ( 484 )
      Everything DNA related, shares a common encoding scheme. The following web page [] explains the basic of amino acid encoding. DNA consists of four nucleotides A, T, C and G. For proteins, triplets of these are used to specify any one of 24 amino acids used. But this could simply be the DNA equivalent of Logo or VHDL (a programming language used to specify silicon chip circuits).

      For some organs of the body to grow into complex shapes, some cells have to be pre-programmed to die at the correct time in order for
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by valis ( 947 )
        > Everything DNA related, shares a common encoding scheme

        Not so sure about that. The encoding of amino acids in genes is quite well defined (though there are exceptions, such as selenocysteine which is produced when a signal in the 3' UTR changes the meaning of a stop codon).

        And protein coding sequences only make up about 1.5% of the genome for humans. Other things in DNA are much less clear, everything in biology is stochastic. Many functional elements are directly involved in protein-DNA interactions w
  • by myc ( 105406 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:45PM (#16624006)
    besides their social behavior, there is a lot known about how the navigation system of honeybees works (i.e., how they find the hive after foraging). Understanding honeybee genetics could have an impact on understanding and designing autonomous systems for robotics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by w33t ( 978574 ) *
      Indeed, design of future machines, if it follows Kurtzweil's GNR (Genetics, Nanotech, Robotics) predictions, could very well be genetically modified at nano scale, creations endowed with artificial intelligence.

      I could see the use of a self-replicating macromolecule (if not DNA, then like it) to code for proteins or some other material.

      Genome sequencing seems akin to early (and current) physicists work at discovering and defining the periodic table of elements.
    • by kfg ( 145172 )
      Knowing what behaviors/qualities a gene effects is a very far cry from knowing how a complete organism goes about its business. Remember, this is poke it and see what happens reverse engineering of a very complex system.

      How's WINE coming along these days? I know it's hard to believe but the Windows API isn't nearly as complex as the genetics of a bee.

      Knowing how an organism goes about its business can be a far cry from how a robot should go about its business.

      Do you really want robots spiraling in toward ev
    • by edschurr ( 999028 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @08:52PM (#16627124)
      Another cool thing about them is that two genes exist in some groups of honey bee which helps them fight a disease that affects larvae. The first gene causes* them to remove the wax covering the diseased larvae, and the second causes* them to toss the larvae out of the nest to die. Groups of honey bees that only have the first gene will remove the wax and leave it at that. However, it's apparantly more complex than two genes causing behaviour because some honey bees do it without those genes.

      Well, that's how I remember it from The Selfish Gene by Dawkins.

      * perhaps not completely
  • by saviorsloth ( 467974 ) <thisdoesnotexist0@gmail . c om> on Saturday October 28, 2006 @02:55PM (#16624070) Homepage
    Reuters' original online article about this misidentified the queen bee as Queen Elizabeth, stating that Britain's monarch was capable of laying "up to 2,000 eggs a day"
    they've corrected it, but you can see the original article here: _te.html []
  • by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @03:16PM (#16624194)
    I understand this is pretty cool, but what could all the buzz bee about?
  • This always confused me with the human genome project: For the most part, two different people will have somewhat different genes.

    So when they sequence the human genome, how do they handle the variations? Does everyone in the project work from the same person's DNA?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by valis ( 947 )
      The human genome projects worked from DNA samples pooled from a number of individuals, which were then assembled into a consensus "human genome". However the original sequenced reads can be aligned back to the reference to find differences (such as SNPs -- single nucleotide polymorphisms).

      Substantial effort is underway to resequence the human genome in different individuals from different populations. The International Hapmap Project ( is among the most high profile.
    • by CharlesEGrant ( 465919 ) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @07:27PM (#16626274)
      So when they sequence the human genome, how do they handle the variations?

      For the purposes of creating the reference sequence they essentially ignored them. In the public human genome project the DNA from a handful of individuals was used. The Celera project used mostly the DNA of one individual, Craig Venter, the head of Celera. This does make the reference sequence arbitrary, but so was the block of platinum that was used to define the kilogram. The idea is that you measure differences from the standard.

      The rule of thumb is that the sequence of any two individualss differ in about 1 base in 1000. This ignores complications like that fact that women have of two copies of the X chromosome and men have 1 X and 1 Y chromosome, and that whole sections of sequence can sometimes get shifted from one chromosome to another. As the other responder pointed out the variations are a major focus of research, particularly Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) [] where 90% of the population have an 'A' in a particulary position and 10% have a 'G'.
      • I thought the kilogram was also defined as the (and I'm probably wrong on these figures) mass of a volume of water 1cmx1cm at ocean level? Kind of arbitrary as well, but it's at least tied in.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The definition of the kilogram [] was originally made in terms of a particular volume of water, but was later changed to the weight of a particluar ingot of irridium-platinum.
        • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
          Actually, the "cubic centimeter of water" definition is that of a gram of water, not a kilogram - however, I am pretty sure that definition is inaccurate, and most likely came about to give a "layman's" visual to teach Americans about the metric system. The metric system's "standards" (ie, physical representative objects of quantity) are based on objects with much greater accuracy (and even then, they are only a representation, which can and does change over time as our knowledge increases, and as better re
  • There have been three developments in apiculture in the last 30 years or so that have driven down the availability of honey, thus driving up the price.

    First, DDT got banned []. Ever hear the Joni Mitchell song that goes, "Hey farmer farmer, take away the DDT now. Give me spots on apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, please." Unfortunately, the opposite happened: without DDT, honeybee competitors thrived, and stronger pesticides that actually did harm the bee were introduced.

    The next problem was the
    • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      Lastly, and possibly related to DDT removal, is a tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi, that kills off entire colonies. I don't think they've found any bees with defenses against the mites, nor against varroa jacobsoni, another deadly mite.

      I could have sworn that the africanized honeybees were immune to the mites? I must be wrong...

      Ever hear the Joni Mitchell song that goes, "Hey farmer farmer, take away the DDT now. Give me spots on apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, please."

      BTW - the song is called B []

  • many bees died to bring us this information
  • Every time I read about DNA being sequenced I wonder if this means 3 or 4 dimensions. Is it known already what switches one gene on or off during a lifespan ? Where are the time or trigger informations stored ? ... just wondering and really am no expert ...
  • mmm, as long as i get to eat honey life is sweet.

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