The Queen of Dopamine

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Science  02 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5816, pp. 1195
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5816.1195c

The queen bee controls the physiology and behavior of her fellow bees and essentially determines the workings of the entire society of insects. The queen exerts this influence by producing a cocktail of pheromones known as queen mandibular pheromone (QMP), but it has not been clear just how the mixture produces its effects. Beggs et al. noted that one component of QMP, homovanillyl alcohol (4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenylethanol or HVA) has a chemical structure similar to that of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The authors therefore tested the effects of the pheromone on dopaminergic function in worker bees. Exposure of newly emerged adult bees to QMP for 2 days decreased the amount of mRNA transcript encoding one of the bee's dopamine receptors. Cultured neurons from the bees' mushroom body normally respond to dopamine with an increase in production of cAMP (adenosine 3′-5′monophosphate), but neurons taken from bees exposed to QMP showed a small decrease in the production of cAMP. HVA produced responses similar to those evoked by dopamine. Total amounts of dopamine in the brain were reduced in bees exposed to HVA for 2 days. Thus, the HVA in the QMP mixture may interact directly with dopamine receptors in the bee nervous system, perhaps decreasing the expression of dopamine receptors and thus altering the response of the neurons to endogenous dopamine. — LBR

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 2460 (2007).

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