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Brain gene expression changes when honey bees go the distance
Date:8/18/2010

; 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."


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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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