Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene expression tied to social behavior in honey bees

10.10.2003


Genes and behavior go together in honey bees so strongly that an individual bee’s occupation can be predicted by knowing a profile of its gene expression in the brain, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.



This strong relationship surfaced in a complex molecular study of 6,878 different genes replicated with 72 cDNA microarrays that captured the essence of brain gene activity within the natural world of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Even though most of the differences in gene expression were small, the changes were observable in 40 percent of the genes studied, the scientists report in the Oct. 10 issue of the journal Science.

"We have discovered a clear molecular signature in the bee brain that is robustly associated with behavior," said principal researcher Gene E. Robinson, a professor of entomology and director of the Neuroscience Program at Illinois. "This provides a striking picture of the genome as a dynamic entity, more actively involved in modulating behavior in the adult brain than we previously thought."


Microarrays let researchers get a broad view of gene activity by generating simultaneous measurements of messenger RNA, which reflect levels of protein activity. The mRNA binds to specific sites on the array, allowing for the measurement of expression from thousands of genes.

Robinson, who also holds the G. William Arends Professorship in Integrative Biology at Illinois, and colleagues generated mRNA profiles from 60 different bees who were working either as nurses (taking care of the brood within the hive) or foragers (gathering food outside). A computer program was able to use the profiles to determine correctly, for 57 of 60 the bees, which individual belonged to what group.

Behavioral differences between nurses and foragers are part of an age-related, socially regulated division of bee labor. Nurses perform care-giving duties for their first two to three weeks of life, then shift to foraging for nectar and pollen. As the behavioral transition occurs the bees experience changes in brain structure, brain chemistry, and, as this new study shows, many changes in gene expression.

Robinson, whose research is part of a federally funded project to sequence the honey bee genome, has long been interested in the mechanisms involved in honey bee division of labor as a model to understand the relationships between genes, brain and behavior.

After an initial analysis showed differences between nurses and foragers, the researchers faced the problem of relating these differences to either age or behavior, because foragers are both behaviorally different and older than nurses. So Robinson and colleagues created colonies consisting entirely of same-aged bees. In the absence of older bees, some individuals in a hive will begin foraging up to two weeks earlier than usual while others will grow up normally and act as nurses, making for age-matched young nurses and foragers. Age-matched old foragers and old nurses also were obtained from these colonies.

A dominant pattern of gene expression emerged, and it "was clearly associated with behavior," the researchers wrote. Since precocious foraging is a response to the shortage of foragers, this finding indicates that the genome is responding dynamically to changes in the bee’s social environment, Robinson said.

The study was unique, he said, because it focused on individual profiles. Previous studies of gene expression and behavior in mice and flies, for instance, have focused on group tendencies, looking at pools of individuals.

Robinson’s colleagues on the paper were Charles W. Whitfield, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of entomology, and undergraduate Anne-Marie Cziko.


The research was funded by a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Bioinformatics to Whitfield and by grants from the University of Illinois Critical Research Initiatives Program and Burroughs Wellcome Trust.

Jim Barlow | UIUC
Further information:
http://www.uiuc.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>