* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received December 1, 2014; Revision received January 29, 2015
The principal mechanism of gene activation/silencing is DNA 5-methylcytosine methylation. This study was aimed at determining global DNA methylation levels in larvae, prepupae, pupae, and 1-day-old adults of Apis mellifera queens, workers and drones. The Imprint Methylated DNA Quantification Kit MDQ1 was used. Percentages of DNA 5-methylcytosine were low and relatively similar in the larvae of all the castes until 4th day of larval development (3-5%). However, they were higher in the drone and worker larvae than in the queen larvae. Generally, the developmental patterns of changes in the DNA methylation levels were different in the queens in comparison with the drones and workers. While methylation increased in the queens, it decreased in the drones and workers. Methylated DNA methylcytosine percentages and weights in the queen prepupae (15%, 9.18 ng) and pupae (21%, 10.74 ng) were, respectively, three and four times higher than in the worker/drone brood of the same age (2.5-4%, 0.03-0.07 ng). Only in the queens, after a substantial increase, did DNA methylation decrease almost twice between the pupal stage and queen emergence (from 21% and 10.74 ng to 12% and 6.78 ng). This finding seems very interesting, particularly for experimental gerontology.
KEY WORDS: Apis mellifera, DNA methylation, epigenetics, honeybee castes, 5-methylcytosine, ontogenesis