Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How drones find queens: Odorant receptor for queen pheromone identified

31.08.2007
The mating ritual of the honey bee is a mysterious affair, occurring at dizzying heights in zones identifiable only to a queen and the horde of drones that court her.

Now a research team led by the University of Illinois has identified an odorant receptor that allows male drones to find a queen in flight. The receptor, on the male antennae, can detect an available queen up to 60 meters away.

This is the first time an odorant receptor has been linked to a specific pheromone in honey bees. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The “queen substance,” or “queen retinue pheromone,” was first identified decades ago, but scientists have only recently begun to understand its structure and role in the hive. The pheromone is a primary source of the queen’s authority. It is made up of eight components, one of which, 9-oxo-2-decenoic acid (9-ODA), attracts the drones during mating flights. It also draws workers to the queen and retards their reproductive growth.

Principal investigator Hugh Robertson, a professor of entomology, said the research team pursued the receptor for the queen retinue pheromone because it was the “lowest hanging fruit” of the known honey bee odorant receptors. Robertson was among the research group that last year published the entire honey bee genome, a feat that allowed his lab to identify 170 odorant receptors in honey bees.

Robertson and his colleagues knew that male drones probably had little use for most of these receptors. The drones don’t forage and so do not need to detect the subtle scents of flowers. Their social role within the hive is virtually non-existent. They have only one task: to find and mate with a queen. Once they have accomplished this, they die.

Using a functional genomics approach, entomology postdoctoral researcher Kevin Wanner was able to determine which odorant receptors were more dominant in males than females. He found four receptors that were expressed in much higher quantities in males than females.

“These proteins are expressed in the membranes of the olfactory neurons way up in the tips of these little sensilla in the antennae of these males,” Robertson said. “A neuron goes all the way from there to the brain. Now the brain gets a signal that says, ‘I’ve smelled this chemical.’ If the chemical is 9-ODA, for the drone that means one thing and one thing only: ‘There’s a queen somewhere! Go get her!’ ”

Determining which of the four primary receptors in males was actually responding to 9-ODA was a formidable challenge.

“That’s where we were very, very lucky,” Robertson said.

By chance, at a conference on the science of olfaction, Wanner met Charles Luetje, a neuroscientist at the University of Miami who had expertise with precisely this type of problem. Luetje had perfected a technique for expressing mammalian odor-sensing receptors on the outer membranes of frog oocytes (eggs) and testing them to see which compounds activated them. When he heard of Wanner’s work in honey bees, Luetje offered to use this technique to test the four primary odor receptors of honey bee drones.

After refining and testing the technique in insects, Luetje’s graduate student Andrew Nichols exposed each of the drone odorant receptors to 9-ODA. Only one of the four receptors responded. When it bound 9-ODA, the protein receptor’s conformation changed, setting off a measurable shift in the membrane potential.

None of the four primary male odorant receptors responded to the other components of the queen pheromone. Only the 9-ODA elicited a response in one of the four, said Robertson, a discovery he called, “thrilling.”

“We grabbed the lowest hanging fruit and we got it,” Robertson said. “Of course, ultimately, we’ve got another 169 receptors to go.”

Scientists have spent decades exploring the mysteries of insect smell, but the newest tools make such research much more promising, Robertson said.

“Like so many biologists, we are wonderfully caught up in the genomic revolution,” he said. “We can sequence genomes. We can use functional genomics to narrow it down. We’ve got these assays, such as the frog oocyte, and other assays. And the genomic revolution has opened up this black box of the molecular biology of insect smell. Finally now we can peer inside.”

To view or subscribe to the RSS feed for Science News at Illinois, please go to: http://webtools.uiuc.edu/rssManager/608/rss.xml.

Editor’s note: To reach Hugh Robertson, call 217-333-0489; e-mail: hughrobe@uiuc.edu.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.uiuc.edu

Further reports about: 9-ODA Drone Pheromone Robertson genomic identified odorant receptor

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>