Life Sciences, School of (SOLS)
Arizona State University
United States of America
Gro Amdam is a Norwegian biologist who is internationally known for her research on behavior and aging in honey bees. Amdam received her MSc (1999) and PhD (2003) degrees at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences before moving to the U.S. to do postdoctoral work at the University of California, Davis. Amdam has published more than 130 research articles and book chapters, and she has received several research awards. She maintains a lab at the University of Life Sciences in Norway, and promotes student exchange between both countries. Her lab uses the honey bee to study the origins of social behavior. Amdam's research team investigates honey bee social structure to understand how social behavior evolved from ancestral solitary forms of life. As her team has gained a better understanding of honey bee behavior, it has expanded its research to include gerontoloty, neurobiology and immunology.
As a PhD student, Amdam discovered that an egg-yolk protein called Vitellogenin (Vg) was transferred by mouth from a specific sub-caste of worker honey bees (called nurses) to the other members of the colony (Amdam et al. 2003, Social exploitation of vitellogenin. PNAS 100: 1799-1802. Vg has a 700 mill year long history in animals and it is found in nearly all egg-laying species, but roles of Vg outside of the egg were unknown before my work. Her finding received considerable attention in the field of Evolution and Development, and spurred an array of studies, e.g. in ants, termites, sub-social beetles and fish, focusing on Vg copy number, gene evolution, and novel functions. As a postdoc, Amdam asked whether evolutionary co-option of a central reproductive (egg-yolk) protein like Vg in honey bee feeding behavior was a clue to understanding the evolution of social organization. The motor of the honey bee society is the worker caste: sterile female helpers that are further divided into sub-castes, such as nurses and foragers. Was it possible that reproductive gene/regulatory networks influenced worker division of labor? This proposition was controversial, because the reproductive machinery of worker honey bees should be turned off and could not contribute to behavior. However, she documented that the worker ovary influenced behavior (Amdam et al. 2006, Complex social behaviour derived from maternal reproductive traits. Nature 439: 76-78. This, and follow-on studies from the Amdam team, contributed to making functional and evolutionary research on reproductive pathways among the most vibrant topics in social insect research. As faculty in the School of Life Sciences at ASU, Amdam has studied honey bee Vg structure and molecular properties, e.g. Havukainen et al. (2013, Vitellogenin recognizes cell damage through membrane binding and shields living cells from reactive oxygen species. JBC 288: 28369-28381. With this work, the Amdam lab can explain diverse effects of Vg on worker honey bee physiology, health and longevity. Over the last two years, moreover, the team connected its insights on Vg structure and role in egg-yolk formation to the process of invertebrate trans-generational immune priming; in which females prime offspring to fight diseases without use of acquired immunity and antibodies. With collaborators, Amdam documented that Vg binds pathogen molecular recognition patterns and transport these into eggs (Salmela et al. 2015, Transfer of immunity from mother to offspring is mediated via egg-yolk protein Vitellogenin. PLoS Pathogens 11(7): e1005015. This finding sets the stage for developing the first vaccines for honey bees.
Porcellato, D., Frantzen, C., Rangberg, A., Umu, O. C., Gabrielsen, C., Nes, I. F., ... Diep, D. B. (2016). Draft genome sequence of Lactobacillus kunkeei AR114 isolated from honey bee gut. Genome Announcements, 3(2), [e00144-15]. DOI: 10.1128/genomeA.00144-15
Rasmussen, E. M. K., Vågbø, C. B., Münch, D., Krokan, H. E., Klungland, A., Amdam, G. V., & Dahl, J. A. (2016). DNA base modifications in honey bee and fruit fly genomes suggest an active demethylation machinery with species- and tissue-specific turnover rates. Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports, 6, 9-15. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrep.2016.02.011
Traynor, K. S., Wang, Y., Brent, C. S., Amdam, G. V., & Page, R. E. (2017). Young and old honeybee (Apis mellifera) larvae differentially prime the developmental maturation of their caregivers. Animal Behaviour, 124, 193-202. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.12.019