Journal of Molecular Neuroscience

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1–12

Changes in neuronal acetylcholinesterase gene expression and division of labor in honey bee colonies

  • Michael Shapira
  • Christopher K. Thompson
  • Hermona Soreq
  • Gene E. Robinson
Article

DOI: 10.1385/JMN:17:1:1

Cite this article as:
Shapira, M., Thompson, C.K., Soreq, H. et al. J Mol Neurosci (2001) 17: 1. doi:10.1385/JMN:17:1:1

Abstract

Division of labor in honey bee colonies is highlighted by adult bees making a transition at 2–3 wk of age from working in the hive to foraging for nectar and pollen outside. This behavioral development involves acquisition of new tasks that may require advanced learning capabilities. Because acetylcholinesterase (AChE) hydrolyzes acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter associated with learning in the insect brain, we searched for changes in AChE expression in the brain during bee behavioral development. Biochemical aspects of the AChE protein were similar in foragers and “nurse” bees that work in the hive tending brood. However, catalytic AChE activity was significantly lower in foragers. Cloning of bee AChE cDNA enabled mRNA analysis, which demonstrated that the forager-related decrease in AChE activity was associated with decreased AChE mRNA levels. This was particularly apparent in the mushroom bodies, a brain region known to be involved with olfactory and visual learning and memory. In addition, treatment with the AChE-inhibitor metrifonate improved performance in an olfactory-learning assay. These findings demonstrate long-term, naturally occurring developmental downregulation of AChE gene expression in the bee brain, and suggest that this genomic plasticity can contribute to facilitated learning capabilities in forager bees.

Index Entries

Honey beeacetylcholinesteraseexpressionbehavioral development

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Shapira
    • 1
    • 4
  • Christopher K. Thompson
    • 2
  • Hermona Soreq
    • 1
    • 3
  • Gene E. Robinson
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biological Chemistry, the Life Sciences Institutethe Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellow, Department of EntomologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbana
  3. 3.Department of Entomology and Neuroscience ProgramUniversity of IllinoisUrbana
  4. 4.Department of GeneticsStanford University School of MedicineStanford