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Ecdysteroids and Honeybee Social Behaviors (pp. 135-156) $100.00
Authors:  (Yurika Shiota, Takeo Kubo, Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Japan)
Abstract:
The European honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) is a social insect that forms a colony. The honeybee colony comprises adult individuals with unique physiologic states that are engaged in different labors to maintain colony activities. Female honeybees differentiate into two castes, queens and workers. The queen is the single reproductive female, and the other females are sterile workers that engage in various labors. The workers shift their labors in an age-dependent manner (division of labor). Young workers (nurse bees) nurse the queens and broods inside the hive, whereas older workers (foragers) forage for nectar and pollen outside the hive [Figure1].
The neural and molecular mechanisms underlying this division of labor among workers, however, remain elusive. In this chapter, we review current knowledge regarding the relation of insect hormones, especially ecdysteroids, to the behavioral changes in worker honeybees.
In the insect, two hormones, juvenile hormone and ecdysteroids, regulate molting and metamorphosis. In the honeybee, juvenile hormone plays an important role as a ‘pacemaker’ in regulating the division of labor of workers. Less is known, however, about the possible role of ecdysteroids in the division of labor of workers.
We previously demonstrated that some ecdysteroid-regulated genes are preferentially expressed in the mushroom bodies (higher centers) in the honeybee brain and that the mode of ecdysteroid signaling in the mushroom bodies switches from ‘ecdysone receptor-dependent’ to ‘hormone receptor 38-dependent’ in worker brains in an age-dependent manner, suggesting possible roles of ecdysteroids in regulating the division of labor of workers. Where ecdysteroids are synthesized in worker honeybees had been a mystery, because the prothoracic glands, which synthesize ecdysteroids during larval stages, are degraded in the adult workers, and ovaries, which usually synthesize ecdysteroids in adult female insects, are shrunken in sterile workers.
We recently reported that the early steps of ecdysteroid synthesis proceed in the ovaries in workers, just like in queens, whereas the late steps proceed in the brain in worker honeybees. It might be that ecdysteroids synthesized in the brain directly activate ecdysteroid signaling in the worker brain to regulate honeybee worker behaviors, similar to ‘neurosteroids’ that are synthesized and function in the mammalian brain.
Ecdysone signaling orchestrates drastic morphologic changes during metamorphosis. In worker honeybees, ecdysone signaling might again be activated to modify brain functions during the age-dependent division of labor of the worker honeybees. 


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Ecdysteroids and Honeybee Social Behaviors (pp. 135-156)