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Regulatory genes involved in cold tolerance and hypoxic adaptation of high-altitude Tibetan bumblebees

China has many habitats supporting a wide diversity of bumblebees, some species of which are limited in distribution to the Tibet Plateau. The high-altitude Tibet Plateau, which has low air density as well as extremely low temperatures, strains the energy requirements for flight in most insects. However, high-altitude bumblebees have adapted to the harsh conditions of this type of habitat.

Bumblebees are a particular group of insect pollinators that exclusively utilize carbohydrates from flowers for energy to sustain flight. Here, gene expression was compared between low-altitude species and Bombus longipennis, and the genes upregulated in B. longipennis were involved in aerobic metabolism, such as the oxidative phosphorylation and citric acid cycle (TCA cycle) pathways.

Furthermore, a conjoint analysis of the transcriptomes of six bumblebee species from the high-altitude Tibet Plateau and two bumblebee species from the low-altitude North China Plain showed that 19 genes were commonly upregulated in high-altitude species. Among these 19 commonly upregulated genes, Pfk1 was enriched in multiple glycometabolic pathways, which are the main energy pathways in bees; this upregulation enhanced the aerobic and anaerobic glycolysis processes to produce more ATP molecules to supply energy for high-altitude bumblebee flight under severe cold conditions.

In addition, glycolysis was enhanced by two other genes, Rac1 and AAC2. Relative quantitative real-time PCR was used to verify that the three genes Pfk1, Rac1, and AAC2 were upregulated in the six main bumblebee species inhabiting the Tibet Plateau.

Read the complete research at springer.com

Liu, Y., Jin, H., Naeem, M. et al. Comparative transcriptome analysis reveals regulatory genes involved in cold tolerance and hypoxic adaptation of high-altitude Tibetan bumblebees. Apidologie 51, 1166–1181 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-020-00795-w


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