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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Behavioral Genomics of Honey Bee foraging and nest defense)

item Hunt, Greg
item Amdam, Gro
item Schlipalius, David
item Emore, Christine
item Sardesai, Nagesh
item Williams, Christie
item Rueppell, Olav
item Guzman-novoa, Ernesto
item Arechavaleta-velasco, Miguel
item Chandra, Sathees

Submitted to: Naturwissenschaften
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/10/2006
Publication Date: 1/20/2007
Citation: Hunt, G., Amdam, G.V., Schlipalius, D., Emore, C., Sardesai, N., Williams, C.E., Rueppell, O., Guzman-Novoa, E., Arechavaleta-Velasco, M., Chandra, S. 2007. Behavioral Genomics of Honey Bee foraging and nest defense. Naturwissenschaften. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Although the genetic basis of honey bee foraging and defensive behavior is well documented, little is known about genes that may influence these behaviors. Through bioinformatics analysis of the honey bee genome sequence, candidate genes were identified which are associated with regions of the genome that affect these behaviors. In addition, mRNA levels were quantified for several genes, narrowing the field of true candidates. Understanding the basis of foraging behavior may be useful in developing bees that are better pollinators. Understanding the basis of defensive behavior may be useful in combating the Africanized bees that are now spreading throughout the US.

Technical Abstract: We superimposed confidence intervals (CIs) with genomic sequence for seven confirmed honey bee quantitative trait loci (QTLs) influencing foraging division of labor (pollen or nectar collecting) and nest defense (stinging and guarding). The high recombination rate of the bee allowed us to narrow the search for genes influencing behavior to regions of 18-52 predicted genes for each QTL. We used a priori knowledge of each behavioral syndrome, comparative bioinformatics and expression data to direct analyses of gene candidates. An over-representation of genes involved in ovarian development and insulin-like signaling components were found within pollen foraging QTL regions, suggesting that an ancestral reproductive gene network was co-opted to produce foraging specialization. In addition, we hypothesized that conserved genes involved in central nervous system (CNS) function and sensory tuning would be involved in defensive behavior. The major locus influencing defensive behavior included orthologs of genes involved in CNS activity and neurogenesis. Candidates at the other two defensive-behavior QTLs includ modulators of sensory signaling (the Am5HT7 serotonin receptor, arrestin and the GABA B1 receptor). This study is the first step in linking natural variation in honey bee behavior to the identification of underlying genes. Due to high recombination rates, CIs encompassing large genetic distances are equivalent to fine-scale mapping in the honey bee.

Last Modified: 05/23/2017
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