Neuromechanism study of insect-machine interface: flight control by neural electrical stimulation.
ABSTRACT: The insect-machine interface (IMI) is a novel approach developed for man-made air vehicles, which directly controls insect flight by either neuromuscular or neural stimulation. In our previous study of IMI, we induced flight initiation and cessation reproducibly in restrained honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) via electrical stimulation of the bilateral optic lobes. To explore the neuromechanism underlying IMI, we applied electrical stimulation to seven subregions of the honeybee brain with the aid of a new method for localizing brain regions. Results showed that the success rate for initiating honeybee flight decreased in the order: ?-lobe (or ?-lobe), ellipsoid body, lobula, medulla and antennal lobe. Based on a comparison with other neurobiological studies in honeybees, we propose that there is a cluster of descending neurons in the honeybee brain that transmits neural excitation from stimulated brain areas to the thoracic ganglia, leading to flight behavior. This neural circuit may involve the higher-order integration center, the primary visual processing center and the suboesophageal ganglion, which is also associated with a possible learning and memory pathway. By pharmacologically manipulating the electrically stimulated honeybee brain, we have shown that octopamine, rather than dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine, plays a part in the circuit underlying electrically elicited honeybee flight. Our study presents a new brain stimulation protocol for the honeybee-machine interface and has solved one of the questions with regard to understanding which functional divisions of the insect brain participate in flight control. It will support further studies to uncover the involved neurons inside specific brain areas and to test the hypothesized involvement of a visual learning and memory pathway in IMI flight control.
Project description:The mushroom bodies are the higher-order integration center in the insect brain and are involved in higher brain functions such as learning and memory. In the social hymenopteran insects such as honeybees, the mushroom bodies are the prominent brain structures. The mushroom bodies are composed of lobed neuropils formed by thousands of parallel-projecting axons of intrinsic neurons, and the lobes are divided into parallel subdivisions. In the present paper, we report a new antigenic marker to label a single layer in the vertical lobes of the European honeybee Apis mellifera. In the brain of A. mellifera, a monoclonal antibody (mAb) 15C3, which was originally developed against an insect ecdysone receptor (EcR) protein, immunolabels a single layer of the vertical lobes that correspond to the most dorsal layer of the ?-lobe. The 15C3 mAb recognizes a single ~200 kDa protein expressed in the adult honeybee brain. In addition, the 15C3 mAb immunoreactivity was also observed in the lobes of the developing pupal mushroom bodies. Since ?-lobe is well known to their extensive reorganization that occurs during metamorphosis in Drosophila, the novel antigenic marker for the honeybee ?-lobe allows us to investigate morphological changes of the mushroom bodies during metamorphosis.
Project description:Honeybees organize a sophisticated society, and the workers transmit information about the location of food sources using a symbolic dance, known as 'dance communication'. Recent studies indicate that workers integrate sensory information during foraging flight for dance communication. The neural mechanisms that account for this remarkable ability are, however, unknown. In the present study, we established a novel method to visualize neural activity in the honeybee brain using a novel immediate early gene, kakusei, as a marker of neural activity. The kakusei transcript was localized in the nuclei of brain neurons and did not encode an open reading frame, suggesting that it functions as a non-coding nuclear RNA. Using this method, we show that neural activity of a mushroom body neuron subtype, the small-type Kenyon cells, is prominently increased in the brains of dancer and forager honeybees. In contrast, the neural activity of the two mushroom body neuron subtypes, the small-and large-type Kenyon cells, is increased in the brains of re-orienting workers, which memorize their hive location during re-orienting flights. These findings demonstrate that the small-type Kenyon cell-preferential activity is associated with foraging behavior, suggesting its involvement in information integration during foraging flight, which is an essential basis for dance communication.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The importance of visual sense in Hymenopteran social behavior is suggested by the existence of a Hymenopteran insect-specific neural circuit related to visual processing and the fact that worker honeybee brain changes morphologically according to its foraging experience. To analyze molecular and neural bases that underlie the visual abilities of the honeybees, we used a cDNA microarray to search for gene(s) expressed in a neural cell-type preferential manner in a visual center of the honeybee brain, the optic lobes (OLs). METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Expression analysis of candidate genes using in situ hybridization revealed two genes expressed in a neural cell-type preferential manner in the OLs. One is a homologue of Drosophila futsch, which encodes a microtubule-associated protein and is preferentially expressed in the monopolar cells in the lamina of the OLs. The gene for another microtubule-associated protein, tau, which functionally overlaps with futsch, was also preferentially expressed in the monopolar cells, strongly suggesting the functional importance of these two microtubule-associated proteins in monopolar cells. The other gene encoded a homologue of Misexpression Suppressor of Dominant-negative Kinase Suppressor of Ras 2 (MESK2), which might activate Ras/MAPK-signaling in Drosophila. MESK2 was expressed preferentially in a subclass of neurons located in the ventral region between the lamina and medulla neuropil in the OLs, suggesting that this subclass is a novel OL neuron type characterized by MESK2-expression. These three genes exhibited similar expression patterns in the worker, drone, and queen brains, suggesting that they function similarly irrespective of the honeybee sex or caste. CONCLUSIONS: Here we identified genes that are expressed in a monopolar cell (Amfutsch and Amtau) or ventral medulla-preferential manner (AmMESK2) in insect OLs. These genes may aid in visualizing neurites of monopolar cells and ventral medulla cells, as well as in analyzing the function of these neurons.
Project description:The search for neural correlates of operant and observational learning requires a combination of two (experimental) conditions that are very difficult to combine: stable recording from high order neurons and free movement of the animal in a rather natural environment. We developed a virtual environment (VE) that simulates a simplified 3D world for honeybees walking stationary on an air-supported spherical treadmill. We show that honeybees perceive the stimuli in the VE as meaningful by transferring learned information from free flight to the virtual world. In search for neural correlates of learning in the VE, mushroom body extrinsic neurons were recorded over days during learning. We found changes in the neural activity specific to the rewarded and unrewarded visual stimuli. Our results suggest an involvement of the mushroom body extrinsic neurons in operant learning in the honeybee (Apis mellifera).
Project description:DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification primarily responsible for individual phenotypic variation. This modification has been reported to play an important role in caste, brain plasticity, and body development in honeybees (Apis mellifera). Here, we report the DNA methylation profile of honeybee hypopharyngeal glands, from atrophy in winter to arousal in the following spring, through the use of whole-genome bisulfite sequencing. Consistent with previous studies in other Apis species, we found low methylation levels of the hypopharyngeal gland genome that were mostly of the CG type. Notably, we observed a strong preference for CpG methylation, which was localized in promoters and exon regions. This result further indicated that, in honeybees, DNA methylation may regulate gene expression by mediating alternative splicing, in addition to silencing gene in the promoter regions. After assessment by correlation analysis, we identified seven candidate proteins encoded by differentially methylated genes, including aristaless-related homeobox, forkhead box protein O, headcase, alpha-amylase, neural-cadherin, epidermal growth factor receptor, and aquaporin, which are reported to be involved in cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation. Hypomethylation followed by upregulated expression of these candidates suggested that DNA methylation may play significant roles in the activation of hypopharyngeal glands in overwintering honeybees. Overall, this study elucidates epigenetic modification differences in honeybee hypopharyngeal glands by comparing an inactive winter state to an aroused state in the following spring, which could provide further insight into the evolution of insect sociality and regulatory plasticity.
Project description:Immune responses of invertebrates imply more than developing a merely unspecific response to an infection. Great interest has been raised to unveil whether this investment into immunity also involves fitness costs associated to the individual or the group. Focusing on the immune responses of honeybees, we use the well-studied insect bumblebee for comparison. Bumblebees are capable of producing specific immune responses to infections whereas this has not been assessed for honeybees so far. We investigated whether a prior bacterial encounter provides protection against a later exposure to the same or a different bacterium in honeybees. Additionally, we studied whether the foraging activities of honeybees and bumblebees are affected upon immune stimulation by assessing the flight performance. Finally, the acceptance behavior of nestmates toward immune-challenged honeybees was determined. Results show that despite stimulating the immune system of honeybees, no protective effects to infections were found. Further, honeybees were not affected by an immune challenge in their flight performance whereas bumblebees showed significant flight impairment. Immune-challenged honeybees showed lower survival rates than naive individuals when introduced into a regular colony. Here, we reveal different immune response-cost scenarios in honeybees and bumblebees for the first time.
Project description:Honeybees (Apis mellifera) senesce within 2 weeks after they discontinue nest tasks in favour of foraging. Foraging involves metabolically demanding flight, which in houseflies (Musca domestica) and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) is associated with markers of ageing such as increased mortality and accumulation of oxidative damage. The role of flight in honeybee ageing is incompletely understood. We assessed relationships between honeybee flight activity and ageing by simulating rain that confined foragers to their colonies most of the day. After 15 days on average, flight-restricted foragers were compared with bees with normal (free) flight: one group that foraged for ?15 days and two additional control groups, for flight duration and chronological age, that foraged for ?5 days. Free flight over 15 days on average resulted in impaired associative learning ability. In contrast, flight-restricted foragers did as well in learning as bees that foraged for 5 days on average. This negative effect of flight activity was not influenced by chronological age or gustatory responsiveness, a measure of the bees' motivation to learn. Contrasting their intact learning ability, flight-restricted bees accrued the most oxidative brain damage as indicated by malondialdehyde protein adduct levels in crude cytosolic fractions. Concentrations of mono- and poly-ubiquitinated brain proteins were equal between the groups, whereas differences in total protein amounts suggested changes in brain protein metabolism connected to forager age, but not flight. We propose that intense flight is causal to brain deficits in aged bees, and that oxidative protein damage is unlikely to be the underlying mechanism.
Project description:BACKGROUND: European honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) foragers have a highly developed visual system that is used for navigation. To clarify the neural basis underlying the highly sophisticated visual ability of foragers, we investigated the neural activity pattern of the optic lobes (OLs) in pollen-foragers and re-orienting bees, using the immediate early gene kakusei as a neural activity marker. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We performed double-in situ hybridization of kakusei and Amgad, the honeybee homolog of the GABA synthesizing enzyme GAD, to assess inhibitory neural activity. kakusei-related activity in GABAergic and non-GABAergic neurons was strongly upregulated in the OLs of the foragers and re-orienting bees, suggesting that both types of neurons are involved in visual information processing. GABAergic neuron activity was significantly higher than non-GABAergic neuron activity in a part of the OLs of only the forager, suggesting that unique information processing occurs in the OLs of foragers. In contrast, GABAergic neuron activity in the antennal lobe was significantly lower than that of GABAergic neurons in the OLs in the forager and re-orienting bees, suggesting that kakusei-related visual activity is dominant in the brains of these bees. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The present study provides the first evidence that GABAergic neurons are highly active in the OL neurons of free-moving honeybees and essential clue to reveal neural basis of the sophisticated visual ability that is equipped in the small and simple brain.
Project description:Calcium imaging in insects reveals the neural response to odours, both at the receptor level on the antenna and in the antennal lobe, the first stage of olfactory information processing in the brain. Changes of intracellular calcium concentration in response to odour presentations can be observed by employing calcium-sensitive, fluorescent dyes. The response pattern across all recorded units is characteristic for the odour.Previously, extraction of odour response patterns from calcium imaging movies was performed offline, after the experiment. We developed software to extract and to visualise odour response patterns in real time. An adaptive algorithm in combination with an implementation for the graphics processing unit enables fast processing of movie streams. Relying on correlations between pixels in the temporal domain, the calcium imaging movie can be segmented into regions that correspond to the neural units.We applied our software to calcium imaging data recorded from the antennal lobe of the honeybee Apis mellifera and from the antenna of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Evaluation on reference data showed results comparable to those obtained by previous offline methods while computation time was significantly lower. Demonstrating practical applicability, we employed the software in a real-time experiment, performing segmentation of glomeruli--the functional units of the honeybee antennal lobe--and visualisation of glomerular activity patterns.Real-time visualisation of odour response patterns expands the experimental repertoire targeted at understanding information processing in the honeybee antennal lobe. In interactive experiments, glomeruli can be selected for manipulation based on their present or past activity, or based on their anatomical position. Apart from supporting neurobiology, the software allows for utilising the insect antenna as a chemosensor, e.g. to detect or to classify odours.
Project description:We previously identified a novel insect picorna-like virus, termed Kakugo virus (KV), obtained from the brains of aggressive honeybee worker bees that had counterattacked giant hornets. Here we examined the tissue distribution of KV and alterations of gene expression profiles in the brains of KV-infected worker bees to analyze possible effects of KV infection on honeybee neural and physiological states. By use of in situ hybridization, KV was broadly detected in the brains of the naturally KV-infected worker bees. When inoculated experimentally into bees, KV was detected in restricted parts of the brain at the early infectious stage and was later detected in various brain regions, including the mushroom bodies, optic lobes, and ocellar nerve. KV was detected not only in the brain but also in the hypopharyngeal glands and fat bodies, indicating systemic KV infection. Next, we compared the gene expression profiles in the brains of KV-inoculated and noninoculated bees. The expression of 11 genes examined was not significantly affected in KV-infected worker bees. cDNA microarray analysis, however, identified a novel gene whose expression was induced in the periphery of the brains of KV-infected bees, which was commonly observed in naturally infected and experimentally inoculated bees. The gene encoded a novel hypothetical protein with a leucine zipper motif. A gene encoding a similar protein was found in the parasitic wasp Nasonia genome but not in other insect genomes. These findings suggest that KV infection may affect brain functions and/or physiological states in honeybees.