EGFR gene methylation is not involved in Royalactin controlled phenotypic polymorphism in honey bees

R. Kucharski, S. Foret, R. Maleszka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The 2011 highly publicised Nature paper by Kamakura on honeybee phenotypic dimorphism, (also using Drosophila as an experimental surrogate), claims that a single protein in royal jelly, Royalactin, essentially acts as a master "on-off" switch in development via the epidermal growth factor receptor (AmEGFR), to seal the fate of queen or worker. One mechanism proposed in that study as important for the action of Royalactin is differential amegfr methylation in alternate organismal outcomes. According to the author differential methylation of amegfr was experimentally confirmed and shown in a supportive figure. Here we have conducted an extensive analysis of the honeybee egfr locus and show that this gene is never methylated. We discuss several lines of evidence casting serious doubts on the amegfr methylation result in the 2011 paper and consider possible origins of the author's statement. In a broader context, we discuss the implication of our findings for contrasting context-dependent regulation of EGFR in three insect species, Apis mellifera, D. melanogaster and the carpenter ant, Camponotus floridanus, and argue that more adequate methylation data scrutiny measures are needed to avoid unwarranted conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14070
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Cite this