Differential Expression of Odorant-Binding Proteins in the Mandibular Glands of the Honey Bee According to Caste and Age

Odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) and chemosensory proteins (CSPs) mediate both perception and release of chemical stimuli in insects. The genome of the honey bee contains 21 genes encoding OBPs and 6 encoding CSPs. Using a proteomic approach, we have investigated the expression of OBPs and CSPs in the mandibular glands of adult honey bees in relation to caste and age. OBP13 is mostly expressed in young individuals and in virgin queens, while OBP21 is abundant in older bees and is prevalent in mated queens. OBP14, which had been found in larvae, is produced in hive workers’ glands. Quite unexpectedly, the mandibular glands of drones also contain OBPs, mainly OBP18 and OBP21. We have expressed three of the most represented OBPs and studied their binding properties. OBP13 binds with good specificity oleic acid and some structurally related compounds, OBP14 is better tuned to monoterpenoid structures, while OBP21 binds the main components of queen mandibular pheromone as well as farnesol, a compound used as a trail pheromone in the honey bee and other hymenopterans. The high expression of different OBPs in the mandibular glands suggests that such proteins could be involved in solubilization and release of semiochemicals.