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cGMP modulates responses to queen mandibular pheromone in worker honey bees

Fussnecker, Brendon L., McKenzie, Alexander M., Grozinger, Christina M.
Journal of comparative physiology 2011 v.197 no.9 pp. 939-948
Apoidea, RNA, brain, brood rearing, cyclic GMP, gene expression, genotype, guanosine monophosphate, pheromones, physiological response, physiological state, queen honey bees, vitellogenin, worker honey bees
Responses to social cues, such as pheromones, can be modified by genotype, physiology, or environmental context. Honey bee queens produce a pheromone (queen mandibular pheromone; QMP) which regulates aspects of worker bee behavior and physiology. Forager bees are less responsive to QMP than young bees engaged in brood care, suggesting that physiological changes associated with behavioral maturation modulate response to this pheromone. Since 3′,5′-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) is a major regulator of behavioral maturation in workers, we examined its role in modulating worker responses to QMP. Treatment with a cGMP analog resulted in significant reductions in both behavioral and physiological responses to QMP in young caged workers. Treatment significantly reduced attraction to QMP and inhibited the QMP-mediated increase in vitellogenin RNA levels in the fat bodies of worker bees. Genome-wide analysis of brain gene expression patterns demonstrated that cGMP has a larger effect on expression levels than QMP, and that QMP has specific effects in the presence of cGMP, suggesting that some responses to QMP may be dependent on an individual bees’ physiological state. Our data suggest that cGMP-mediated processes play a role in modulating responses to QMP in honey bees at the behavioral, physiological, and molecular levels.