Honey bee dopamine and octopamine receptors linked to intracellular calcium signaling have a close phylogenetic and pharmacological relationship

PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e26809. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026809. Epub 2011 Nov 11.


Background: Three dopamine receptor genes have been identified that are highly conserved among arthropod species. One of these genes, referred to in honey bees as Amdop2, shows a close phylogenetic relationship to the a-adrenergic-like octopamine receptor family. In this study we examined in parallel the functional and pharmacological properties of AmDOP2 and the honey bee octopamine receptor, AmOA1. For comparison, pharmacological properties of the honey bee dopamine receptors AmDOP1 and AmDOP3, and the tyramine receptor AmTYR1, were also examined.

Methodology/principal findings: Using HEK293 cells heterologously expressing honey bee biogenic amine receptors, we found that activation of AmDOP2 receptors, like AmOA1 receptors, initiates a rapid increase in intracellular calcium levels. We found no evidence of calcium signaling via AmDOP1, AmDOP3 or AmTYR1 receptors. AmDOP2- and AmOA1-mediated increases in intracellular calcium were inhibited by 10 µM edelfosine indicating a requirement for phospholipase C-β activity in this signaling pathway. Edelfosine treatment had no effect on AmDOP2- or AmOA1-mediated increases in intracellular cAMP. The synthetic compounds mianserin and epinastine, like cis-(Z)-flupentixol and spiperone, were found to have significant antagonist activity on AmDOP2 receptors. All 4 compounds were effective antagonists also on AmOA1 receptors. Analysis of putative ligand binding sites offers a possible explanation for why epinastine acts as an antagonist at AmDOP2 receptors, but fails to block responses mediated via AmDOP1.

Conclusions/significance: Our results indicate that AmDOP2, like AmOA1, is coupled not only to cAMP, but also to calcium-signalling and moreover, that the two signalling pathways are independent upstream of phospholipase C-β activity. The striking similarity between the pharmacological properties of these 2 receptors suggests an underlying conservation of structural properties related to receptor function. Taken together, these results strongly support phylogenetic analyses indicating that the AmDOP2 and AmOA1 receptor genes are immediate paralogs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bees
  • Binding Sites
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling / genetics
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Dibenzazepines / metabolism
  • Flupenthixol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Biogenic Amine / chemistry
  • Receptors, Biogenic Amine / classification*
  • Receptors, Biogenic Amine / genetics
  • Receptors, Biogenic Amine / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine / chemistry
  • Receptors, Dopamine / classification*
  • Receptors, Dopamine / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Spiperone / pharmacology


  • Dibenzazepines
  • Imidazoles
  • Receptors, Biogenic Amine
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • norsynephrine receptor
  • Spiperone
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Flupenthixol
  • epinastine
  • Calcium