Queen pheromone modulates brain dopamine function in worker honey bees.
Honey bee queens produce a sophisticated array of chemical signals (pheromones) that influence both the behavior and physiology of their nest mates. Most striking are the effects of queen mandibular pheromone (QMP), a chemical blend that induces young workers to feed and groom the queen and primes bees to perform colony-related tasks. But how does this pheromone operate at the cellular level? This study reveals that QMP has profound effects on dopamine pathways in the brain, pathways that play a central role in behavioral regulation and motor control. In young worker bees, dopamine levels, levels of dopamine receptor gene expression, and cellular responses to this amine are all affected by QMP. We identify homovanillyl alcohol as a key contributor to these effects and provide evidence linking QMP-induced changes in the brain to changes at a behavioral level. This study offers exciting insights into the mechanisms through which QMP operates and a deeper understanding of the queen's ability to regulate the behavior of her offspring.