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Peptide biomarkers used for the selective breeding of a complex polygenic trait in honey bees

Guarna, M.M., Hoover, S.E., Huxter, E., Higo, H., Moon, K.M., Domanski, D., Bixby, M.E.F., Melathopoulos, A.P., Ibrahim, A., Peirson, M., Desai, S., Micholson, D., White, R., Borchers, C.H., Currie, R.W., Pernal, S.F., Foster, L.J. (2017). Peptide biomarkers used for the selective breeding of a complex polygenic trait in honey bees, 7(1),


© 2017 The Author(s). We present a novel way to select for highly polygenic traits. For millennia, humans have used observable phenotypes to selectively breed stronger or more productive livestock and crops. Selection on genotype, using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and genome profiling, is also now applied broadly in livestock breeding programs; however, selection on protein/peptide or mRNA expression markers has not yet been proven useful. Here we demonstrate the utility of protein markers to select for disease-resistant hygienic behavior in the European honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). Robust, mechanistically-linked protein expression markers, by integrating cis- A nd trans- effects from many genomic loci, may overcome limitations of genomic markers to allow for selection. After three generations of selection, the resulting marker-selected stock outperformed an unselected benchmark stock in terms of hygienic behavior, and had improved survival when challenged with a bacterial disease or a parasitic mite, similar to bees selected using a phenotype-based assessment for this trait. This is the first demonstration of the efficacy of protein markers for industrial selective breeding in any agricultural species, plant or animal.

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