The Effect of Diet on the Composition and Stability of Proteins Secreted by Honey Bees in Honey

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Honey proteins are essential bee nutrients and antimicrobials that protect honey from microbial spoilage. The majority of the honey proteome includes bee-secreted peptides and proteins, produced in specialised glands; however, bees need to forage actively for nitrogen sources and other basic elements of protein synthesis. Nectar and pollen of dierent origins can vary significantly in their nutritional composition and other compounds such as plant secondary metabolites. Worker bees producing and ripening honey from nectar might therefore need to adjust protein secretions depending on the quality and specific contents of the starting material. Here, we assessed the impact of dierent food sources (sugar solutions with dierent additives) on honey proteome composition and stability, using controlled cage experiments. Honey-like products generated fromsugar solution with or without additional protein, or plant secondary metabolites, diered neither in protein quality nor in protein quantity among samples. Storage for 4 weeks prevented protein degradation in most cases, without dierences between food sources. The honey-like product proteome included several major royal jelly proteins, alpha-glucosidase and glucose oxidase. As none of the feeding regimes resulted in different protein profiles, we can conclude that worker bees may secrete a constant amount of each bee-specific protein into honey to preserve this highly valuable hive product.

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