Navigation Links
Brain gene expression changes when honey bees go the distance

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Tricking honey bees into thinking they have traveled long distance to find food alters gene expression in their brains, researchers report this month. Their study, in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior, is the first to identify distance-responsive genes.

Foraging honey bees make unique research animals in part because they communicate in a language humans can decode, said University of Illinois entomology and neuroscience professor Gene Robinson, who led the study. After a successful hunt, a forager performs a highly stylized "dance" that tells her peers what direction to go to find the food, how good it is and how far away it is. The bee does a "round dance" if the food is close to home, while a "waggle dance" indicates it is farther away.

(You can watch a video of activity in the honey bee hive, including the dances here:

The new study used an established method for altering a honey bee's perception of distance as she flew through a tunnel to gather food. Vertical stripes or a busy pattern on the tunnel walls can trick a bee into thinking she is traveling a greater distance, while horizontal stripes or a sparse pattern indicate a shorter distance even though the tunnels are the exact same length. At the end of the flight, a researcher watches the honey bee dance to find out how far she thinks she flew.

"This is a great example of what you can learn if you are able to manipulate an animal to be able to tell you what it's thinking," Robinson said.

Using microarray analysis, which tracks the activity of thousands of genes at once, the researchers compared gene expression in the brains of bees that thought they had traveled shorter or longer distances. The team focused on two brain regions: the optic lobes, which process visual information; and the mushroom bodies, which integrate sensory information and have been implicated in learning and memory.

Some bees (labeled S-S bees) traveled the "short" distance repeatedly to get to the food, while others (the S-L bees) trained on the "short" distance and then were switched to the "long" distance tunnel. Brain gene expression differed between the groups. A total of 29 annotated genes (for which sequence, location in the genome and function are known) were "differentially regulated between the S-L and S-S bees, either in the optic lobes, mushroom bodies, or both," the researchers wrote.

Surprisingly, the patterns of gene expression (which genes were turned up, down, on or off in response to the experience) were similar in both brain regions, Robinson said, suggesting that similar molecular pathways are involved in responding to distance information in different parts of the brain. The fact that gene activity changes in the mushroom bodies may indicate that some of the information is encoded in memory, he said, "which makes sense because bees need to remember their flight distance long enough to communicate it to hive-mates by dance language."

This study adds a new dimension to the ongoing exploration of the socially responsive genome, Robinson said. The genome is not a static blueprint for life, as was once believed, he said. "Instead we see how responsive the genome is to environmental stimuli and especially socially relevant stimuli. Here is another piece of the world that the genome is responding to that we didn't know about before."


Contact: Diana Yates
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related biology news :

1. Penn biophysicists create new model for protein-cholesterol interactions in brain and muscle tissue
2. During exercise, the human brain shifts into high gear on alternative energy
3. Millisecond brain signals predict response to fast-acting antidepressant
4. Food for thought -- regulating energy supply to the brain during fasting
5. Risk and reward compete in brain
6. Brainy genes, not brawn, key to success on mussel beach
7. Brain-nourishing molecule may predict schizophrenia relapse
8. Brain structure provides key to unraveling function of bizarre dinosaur crests
9. MU brain imaging center provides research for autism, schizophrenia and Parkinsons disease
10. Key to function of dinosaur crests found in brain structure
11. Emotion and scent create lasting memories -- even in a sleeping brain
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Brain gene expression changes when honey bees go the distance
(Date:5/20/2016)... , May 20, 2016  VoiceIt is excited ... with VoicePass. By working together, VoiceIt ...  Because VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly different approaches ... increases both security and usability. ... about this new partnership. "This marketing ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... BANGALORE, India , April 28, 2016 ... subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), and Samsung ... global partnership that will provide end customers with a ... and payment services.      (Logo: ... for financial services, but it also plays a fundamental part ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... CHICAGO , April 15, 2016  A ... companies make more accurate underwriting decisions in a ... offering timely, competitively priced and high-value life insurance ... health screenings. With Force Diagnostics, rapid ... and lifestyle data readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Apellis ... Phase 1 clinical trials of its complement C3 ... single and multiple ascending dose studies designed to ... (PD) of subcutaneous injection in healthy adult volunteers. ... (SC) either as a single dose (ranging from ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 ... 2016;12(1):22-8 Published recently ... peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz ... of cancer care is placing an increasing burden ... expensive biologic therapies. With the patents on many ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, the ... Convention Center and will showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 to ... a scientific poster on Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the conference. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Connecticut (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... introduce a new line of intelligent tools designed, tuned and optimized exclusively for ... September 12–17 in Chicago. The result of a collaboration among several companies with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: