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J Neurobiol. 2002 Nov 15;53(3):343-60.

Hydroxyurea-induced partial mushroom body ablation does not affect acquisition and retention of olfactory differential conditioning in honeybees.

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Neurobiologie, Institute für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Königin-Luise-Str. 28-30, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


The mushroom bodies (MBs), a paired structure in the insect brain, play a major role in storing and retrieving olfactory memories. We tested whether olfactory learning and odor processing is impaired in honeybees in which MB subunits were partially ablated. Using hydroxyurea (HU) to selectively kill proliferating cells, we created honeybees with varying degrees of MB lesions. Three-dimensional reconstructions of brains were generated to analyze the drug-induced morphological changes. These reconstructions show that, with few exceptions, only the MBs were affected by the drug, while other brain areas remained morphometrically intact. Typically, lesions affected only the MB in one hemisphere of the brain. To preclude HU-induced physiologic deficits in the antennal lobe (AL) affecting olfactory learning, we measured the responses to odors in the AL using an in vivo calcium imaging approach. The response patterns did not differ between the AL of intact versus ablated brain sides within respective specimens. We, therefore, carried out side-specific classical discriminative olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension reflex (PER) with control bees and with HU-treated bees with or without MB ablations. All experimental groups learned equally to discriminate and respond to a rewarded (CS+) but not to an unrewarded (CS-) conditioned stimulus during acquisition and retention tests. Thus, our results indicate that partial MB lesions do not affect this form of elemental olfactory learning.

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