Genes associated with honey bee behavioral maturation affect clock-dependent and -independent aspects of daily rhythmic activity in fruit flies

Chen Fu, Charles W. Whitfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the honey bee, the age-related and socially regulated transition of workers from in-hive task performance (e.g., caring for young) to foraging (provisioning the hive) is associated with changes in many behaviors including the 24-hour pattern of rhythmic activity. We have previously shown that the hive-bee to forager transition is associated with extensive changes in brain gene expression. In this study, we test the possible function of a subset of these genes in daily rhythmic activity pattern using neural-targeted RNA interference (RNAi) of an orthologous gene set in Drosophila melanogaster. Principal Findings: Of 10 genes tested, knockdown of six affected some aspect of locomotor activity under a 12 h:12 h light:dark regime (LD). Inos affected anticipatory activity preceding lights-off, suggesting a possible clock-dependent function. BM-40-SPARC, U2af50 and fax affected peak activity at dawn without affecting anticipation or overall inactivity (proportion of 15-min intervals without activity), suggesting that these effects may depend on the day-night light cycle. CAH1 affected overall inactivity. The remaining gene, abl, affected peak activity levels but was not clearly time-of-day-specific. No gene tested affected length of period or strength of rhythmicity in constant dark (DD), suggesting that these genes do not act in the core clock. Significance: Taking advantage of Drosophila molecular genetic tools, our study provides an important step in understanding the large set of gene expression changes that occur in the honey bee transition from hive bee to forager. We show that orthologs of many of these genes influence locomotor activity in Drosophila, possibly through both clock-dependent and -independent pathways. Our results support the importance of both circadian clock and direct environmental stimuli (apart from entrainment) in shaping the bee's 24-hour pattern of activity. Our study also outlines a new approach to dissecting complex behavior in a social animal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere29157
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 11 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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