Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers boost insect aggression by altering brain metabolism

06.08.2014

Scientists report they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain. Their study, of fruit flies and honey bees, shows a direct, causal link between brain metabolism (how the brain generates the energy it needs to function) and aggression. The team reports its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new research follows up on previous work from the laboratory of University of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who also led the new analysis. When he and his colleagues looked at brain gene activity in honey bees after they had faced down an intruder, the team found that some metabolic genes were suppressed. These genes play a key role in the most efficient type of energy generation in cells, a process called oxidative phosphorylation.

Honey Bee Aggression

Some insects are more aggressive than others in response to an intruder. Watch a video of honey bees responding to an intruder bee. (See link in news release.)

Credit: Jon Sullivan

"It was a counterintuitive finding because these genes were down-regulated," Robinson said. "You tend to think of aggression as requiring more energy, not less."

In the new study, postdoctoral researcher Clare Rittschof used drugs to suppress key steps in oxidative phosphorylation in the bee brains. She saw that aggression increased in the drugged bees in a dose-responsive manner, Robinson said. But the drugs had no effect on chronically stressed bees – they were not able to increase their aggression in response to an intruder. (Watch a video of honey bees responding to an intruder.)

... more about:
»drugs »flies »genes »insect »intruder »metabolism »phosphorylation »skin »steps

"Something about chronic stress changed their response to the drug, which is a fascinating finding in and of itself," Robinson said. "We want to know just how this experience gets under their skin to affect their brain."

In separate experiments, postdoctoral researcher Hongmei Li-Byarlay and undergraduate student Jonathan Massey found that reduced oxidative phosphorylation in fruit flies also increased aggression. Using advanced fly genetics, the team found this effect only when oxidative phosphorylation was reduced in neurons, but not in neighboring cells known as glia. This result, too, was surprising, since "glia are metabolically very active, and are the energy storehouses of the brain," Robinson said.

The findings offer insight into the immediate and longer-term changes that occur in response to threats, Robinson said.

"When an animal faces a threat, it has an immediate aggressive response, within seconds," Robinson said. But changes in brain metabolism take much longer and cannot account for this immediate response, he said. Such changes likely make individuals more vigilant to subsequent threats.

"This makes good sense in an ecological sense," Robinson said, "because threats often come in bunches."

The fact that the researchers observed these effects in two species that diverged 300 million years ago makes the findings even more compelling, Robinson said.

"Because fruit flies and honey bees are separated by 300 million years of evolution, this is a very robust and well-conserved mechanism," he said.

###

The National Science Foundation supported this work.

Editor's notes: To reach Gene Robinson, call 217-265-0309; email generobi@illinois.edu.

The paper, "Socially responsive effects of brain oxidative metabolism on aggression," is available online or from the U. of I. News Bureau.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Further information:
http://illinois.edu/

Further reports about: drugs flies genes insect intruder metabolism phosphorylation skin steps

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Protein scaffold
27.05.2015 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Seeing the action
27.05.2015 | University of California - Santa Barbara

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Advance in regenerative medicine

The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.

Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...

Im Focus: Basel Physicists Develop Efficient Method of Signal Transmission from Nanocomponents

Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.

Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...

Im Focus: IoT-based Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation System

Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services

To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...

Im Focus: First electrical car ferry in the world in operation in Norway now

  • Siemens delivers electric propulsion system and charging stations with lithium-ion batteries charged from hydro power
  • Ferry only uses 150 kilowatt hours (kWh) per route and reduces cost of fuel by 60 percent
  • Milestone on the road to operating emission-free ferries

The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...

Im Focus: Into the ice – RV Polarstern opens the arctic season by setting course for Spitsbergen

On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.

RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International symposium: trends in spatial analysis and modelling for a more sustainable land use

20.05.2015 | Event News

15th conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists

18.05.2015 | Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing health in Europe. Balancing priorities, sharing responsibilities

12.05.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers develop intelligent handheld robots

27.05.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

"Hidden" fragrance compound can cause contact allergy

27.05.2015 | Health and Medicine

Supernovas help 'clean' galaxies

27.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>