Original Articles

Current Genetics

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 539-543

First online:

Transfer of paternal mitochondrial DNA during fertilization of honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) eggs

  • Michael S. MeuselAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, Molecular Biology Laboratory, University of Natal
  • , Robin F. A. MoritzAffiliated withInstitut für Biologie/Genetik, TU Berlin

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Strict maternal inheritance of mitochondrial (mt) DNA is believed to be the rule in most eukaryotic organisms because of exclusion of paternal mitochondria from the egg cytoplasm during fertilization. In honeybees, polyspermic fertilization occurs, and many spermatozoa, including their mitochondria-rich flagellum, can completely penetrate the egg, thus allowing for a possibly high paternal leakage. In order to identify paternal mtDNA in honeybee eggs, restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP) of different subspecies were used. Total DNA extracts of different developmental stages of an Apis mellifera carnica x Apis mellifera capensis hybrid brood were tested with a radioactively-labelled diagnostic mtDNA probe. Densitograms of autoradiographs indicated that the male contribution represents up to 27% of the total mitochondrial DNA in the fertilized eggs 12 h after oviposition. In subsequent developmental stages the portion of paternal mtDNA slowly decreased until hatching of the larvae when only traces were found. Although rapid disintegration of paternal mtDNA does not occur, the initially high paternal mitochondrial contribution is not maintained in the adult animal.

Key words

Mitochondrial DNA Apis mellifera Fertilization Paternal inheritance