Vitellogenin an important protein: it is as old as multicellular animal life on Earth, about 700 mill years old. Today, it is present in almost all animals that lay eggs. Vitellogenin is essential for eggs to be viable. But what is more: Our previous work revealed that it also can be major player in the immune system, nutritional health and behavior of adult animals. Our research has focused on honey bees, which are important as producers of honey and as pollinators of crops like berries, fruits and vegetables. Our most recent work lead to the discovery of at least 121 variants (unique protein shapes) of Vitellogenin in honey bees. This big number provides an incredible resource for learning more about Vitellogenin, with implications for other animals in human food systems such as poultry and farmed fish. With this project, we study specific variants of Vitellogenin that are predicted to vary in their effect on the immunity, nutritional health and behavior of honey bees. In addition to testing these predictions, which can lead to new guidelines for bee breeding, we work closely with beekeepers and veterinarians to ensure that the information we uncover is available to ensure the best future health for bees. The project is a collaboration with entities in Norway and abroad, including the University of Bergen, Oxford University, and US Department of Agriculture.
Vitellogenin (Vg) is an important yolk protein in most egg-laying animals?from sponges to chickens. We have studied Vg for 20 years, and during this time, the functional characterization of the protein expanded: From simple "yolk precursor", to a multifunctional protein important for health and behavior. Our previous work was a key to this paradigm shift. We now propose to use our unique knowledge base to leverage a new finding: 121 Vg variants in honey bees (Apis mellifera). By leveraging these protein variants, we will deliver results at the forefront of molecular biology while addressing a challenge to agriculture and society: the need to alleviate stresses on bees from diseases and poor nutrition. To achieve our objectives, we launch a multidisciplinary initiative that involves 6 academic partners as well as stakeholder groups. Our project is structured around two task areas: cutting-edge basic research (WP1-3) and cutting-edge applied research (WP4-5). Under WP1-3 we utilize specific Vg variants or Vg-inspired synthetic constructs to resolve questions about Vg multifunctionality; in pathogen-, lipid- and DNA-binding. Under WP4 we test how specific Vg variants perform in bee colonies in the USA, in collaboration and synergy with the USDA's Baton Rouge lab. This lab is a world-authority on bee health and genetic stock development. Our applied research is taken to a next level in WP5, where stakeholders form interdisciplinary teams to develop simple "at-home" quantification tools for Vg. Our project outputs are positioned to boost the molecular understanding of Vg (with implications for the many taxa that rely on this protein), and to modernize the use of Vg in veterinary diagnostics in the service of bees and beekeepers.