MicroRNAs in bee brains

12 May 2012

Interview with

Nell Barrie

Kat -  Another nice bee story that I noticed in the journal Genes, Brains and Behaviour and this is from researchers at Washington University was about the role of microRNAs in bee brains.  The microRNAs are kind of tiny little snippets of RNA.  It's sort of the message inside our cells.  For a long time, scientists have just thought this was maybe sort junk DNA, didn't really know what it did and now, it's turning out to be very interesting because in bee colonies, bees have different jobs.  They're very stereotyped.  Some bees are worker bees, some bees are nurse bees, obviously you get queen bees, you get drones.  They think that these microRNAs at different times might be responsible for making sure that bees go into the right job.  So, it's not just the genes, the actual genes being switched on and off.  They think that this microRNA is controlling it and it's really fascinating, some of the roles that these microRNAs might have.

Nell -  Yes, it's kind of like career advice for bees in their brain.I think kind of what's weird about this in ways that there is so much we still don't know because clearly, something must be controlling when these little switches are going on and off inside the bees' brains and in other animals too.  We know they have roles in circadian rhythms for example and we just don't really know enough about yet, what they could be doing in human brains for example.  So, it would be really interesting to see more research like this coming out in different species, I think.

Kat -  Yeah, us humans make around 2,000 microRNAs and they started to be implicated in cancer, in neurological disease, so a whole field to be explored.

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