Biogenic amines are important messenger substances in the central nervous system and in peripheral organs of vertebrates and of invertebrates. The honeybee, Apis mellifera, is excellently suited to uncover the functions of biogenic amines in behaviour, because it has an extensive behavioural repertoire, with a number of biogenic amine receptors characterised in this insect.In the honeybee, the biogenic amines dopamine, octopamine, serotonin and tyramine modulate neuronal functions in various ways. Dopamine and serotonin are present in high concentrations in the bee brain, whereas octopamine and tyramine are less abundant. Octopamine is a key molecule for the control of honeybee behaviour. It generally has an arousing effect and leads to higher sensitivity for sensory inputs, better learning performance and increased foraging behaviour. Tyramine has been suggested to act antagonistically to octopamine, but only few experimental data are available for this amine. Dopamine and serotonin often have antagonistic or inhibitory effects as compared to octopamine.Biogenic amines bind to membrane receptors that primarily belong to the large gene-family of GTP-binding (G) protein coupled receptors. Receptor activation leads to transient changes in concentrations of intracellular second messengers such as cAMP, IP(3) and/or Ca(2+). Although several biogenic amine receptors from the honeybee have been cloned and characterised more recently, many genes still remain to be identified. The availability of the completely sequenced genome of Apis mellifera will contribute substantially to closing this gap.In this review, we will discuss the present knowledge on how biogenic amines and their receptor-mediated cellular responses modulate different behaviours of honeybees including learning processes and division of labour.
Keywords: Serotonin; amine receptors; behaviour; division of labour; dopamine; honeybee; octopamine; tyramine.