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Dev Comp Immunol. 2008;32(8):883-9. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2008.01.010. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Differential gene expression in the honeybee head after a bacterial challenge.

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  • 1Laboratory of Zoophysiology, Department of Biochemistry, Physiology and Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


Bidirectional interactions between the immune and nervous systems are well established in vertebrates. Insects show similar neuro-immune-behavioral interactions to those seen in vertebrates. Using quantitative real-time PCR, we present evidence that gene expression in the honeybee head is influenced by activation of the immune system 8h after a bacterial challenge with Escherichia coli. Seven genes were selected for quantitative analysis in order to cover both typical functions of the head such as exocrine secretion (mrjp3 and mrjp4) and olfactory processes (obp17) as well as more general processes such as structural functions (mlc2 and paramyosin), stress response (ERp60) and energy housekeeping (enolase). In this way, we show at the molecular level that the immune system functions as a sensory organ in insects -- as it does in vertebrates -- which signals to the head that a bacterial infection is present, and leads to regulation of expression of several genes in the head by a yet unidentified mechanism.

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