Increased neural activity of a mushroom body neuron subtype in the brains of forager honeybees

PLoS One. 2007 Apr 18;2(4):e371. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000371.


Honeybees organize a sophisticated society, and the workers transmit information about the location of food sources using a symbolic dance, known as 'dance communication'. Recent studies indicate that workers integrate sensory information during foraging flight for dance communication. The neural mechanisms that account for this remarkable ability are, however, unknown. In the present study, we established a novel method to visualize neural activity in the honeybee brain using a novel immediate early gene, kakusei, as a marker of neural activity. The kakusei transcript was localized in the nuclei of brain neurons and did not encode an open reading frame, suggesting that it functions as a non-coding nuclear RNA. Using this method, we show that neural activity of a mushroom body neuron subtype, the small-type Kenyon cells, is prominently increased in the brains of dancer and forager honeybees. In contrast, the neural activity of the two mushroom body neuron subtypes, the small-and large-type Kenyon cells, is increased in the brains of re-orienting workers, which memorize their hive location during re-orienting flights. These findings demonstrate that the small-type Kenyon cell-preferential activity is associated with foraging behavior, suggesting its involvement in information integration during foraging flight, which is an essential basis for dance communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Neurons / physiology*