In honey bees, continuous foraging at an artificial feeder induced a sustained upregulation of the immediate early genes early growth response protein 1 (Egr-1) and hormone receptor 38 (Hr38). This gene expression response was accompanied by an upregulation of several Egr-1 candidate downstream genes: ecdysone receptor (EcR), dopamine/ecdysteroid receptor (DopEcR), dopamine decarboxylase and dopamine receptor 2. Hr38, EcR and DopEcR are components of the ecdysteroid signalling pathway, which is highly probably involved in learning and memory processes in honey bees and other insects. Time-trained foragers still showed an upregulation of Egr-1 when the feeder was presented at an earlier time of the day, suggesting that the genomic response is more dependent on the food reward than training time. However, presentation of the feeder at the training time without food was still capable of inducing a transient increase in Egr-1 expression. Thus, learnt feeder cues, or even training time, probably affect Egr-1 expression. In contrast, whole brain Egr-1 expression changes did not differ between dancing and nondancing foragers. On the basis of our results we propose that food reward induced continuous foraging ultimately elicits a genomic response involving Egr-1 and Hr38 and their downstream genes. Furthermore this genomic response is highly probably involved in foraging-related learning and memory responses.
Keywords: Egr-1; Hr38; bee foraging; ecdysteroid signalling genes; learning; memory.
© 2017 The Royal Entomological Society.