Mass Spectrometric Quantification of Arousal Associated Neurochemical Changes in Single Honey Bee Brains and Brain Regions

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2019 Apr 17;10(4):1950-1959. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00254. Epub 2018 Oct 26.


Honey bee foragers show a strong diurnal rhythm of foraging activity, and such behavioral changes are likely under the control of specific neuromodulators. To identify and quantify neuromodulators involved in regulating rest and arousal in honey bees, we established a mass spectrometric method for quantifying 14 different neurochemicals and precursor molecules. We measured forager type and brain region specific differences in amine levels from individual honey bee brains and brain regions. The observed differences in amine levels between resting and aroused foragers resemble findings in other species indicating a conserved molecular mechanism by glutamate and GABA in regulating arousal. Subesophageal ganglion specific changes in the histaminergic system and global increases in aspartate during arousal suggest a possible role of histamine and aspartate in feeding and arousal, respectively. More aminergic systems were significantly affected due to arousal in nectar foragers than in pollen foragers, implying that forager phenotypes differ not only in their food preference but also in their neuromodulatory signaling systems (brain states). Finally, we found that neurotransmitter precursors were better at distinguishing brain states in the central brain, while their end products correlated with arousal associated changes in sensory regions like the optic and antennal lobes.

Keywords: Apis mellifera; behavior; biogenic amines; central nervous system; mass spectrometry; quantification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Bees
  • Biogenic Amines / analysis
  • Biogenic Amines / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Species Specificity


  • Biogenic Amines