The research of CIBER: An overview
Honeybees as a model system
Apart from the fact that honeybees are of central importance for human food production, they also make perfect model systems for basic scientific research. Beekeepers have accumulated a broad knowledge of how to breed bees and we are modifying this technology for our experimental studies on honeybee reproduction and immunity. The availability of the honeybee genome offers us detailed insights into the DNA and the molecules that make up bees. Western Australia is also ideal to study feral bees, as they are widespread and relatively easy to access.
Honeybee field work
We maintain two separate beeyards at the University of Western Australia, one on campus just a few meters away from our lab and a second one off campus. We use the bee yards to breed and maintain the animals that we need for our experiments. We also maintain experimental colonies, which we refer to as nucleus hives. These hives are used for field experiments where we are able to study the response of a colonies or individuals (for example queens) to an experimental stimulus. For example, we provide honeybee queens with seminal fluid - or components of it and quantify changes in queen physiology or behavior.
The honeybee lab
We maintain a honeybee lab at the Centre for Evolutionary Biology, which is setup to accommodate our experimental work. For example we have several artificial insemination machines, which we use to collect sperm and haemolymph samples, but we also inseminate honeybee queens prior to field experiments (see above). We also perform lab experiments, for example to study the effects of seminal and spermathecal fluid on sperm survival. To do this we use two fluorescence dyes, that allow us to distinguish between live and dead sperm.
We use state of the art proteomics facilities at the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. Established proteomic workflows allow us to separate biological samples such as seminal fluid or haemolymph using one and two dimensional gel electrophoresis. Proteins spots are then cut out of the gels, protein extracts digested and analysed by mass spectrometry. This allows us to readily identify the proteins and their post-translational modifications within biological samples. Differential in gel electrophoresis (DIGE), iTraq isobaric tag labelling and SRM quantitation techniques offer possibilities to study differential protein expression for example of seminal fluid proteins from different males. Network analyses allow us to gain a more global picture of the physiological activities of the proteins identified.