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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2006 Sep;86(2):164-74. Epub 2006 Apr 17.

Involvement of alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive nicotinic receptors in long-term memory formation in the honeybee (Apis mellifera).

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Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III, 4R3, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex 09, France.


In the honeybee Apis mellifera, multiple-trial olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension response specifically leads to long-term memory (LTM) which can be retrieved more than 24 h after learning. We studied the involvement of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the establishment of LTM by injecting the nicotinic antagonists mecamylamine (1 mM), alpha-bungarotoxin (alpha-BGT, 0.1 mM) or methyllycaconitine (MLA, 0.1 mM) into the brain through the median ocellus 20 min before or 20 min after multiple-trial learning. The retention tests were performed 1, 3, and 24 h after learning. Pre-training injections of mecamylamine induced a lower performance during conditioning but had no effect on LTM formation. Post-training injections of mecamylamine did not affect honeybees' performances. Pre-training injections of MLA or post-training injection of alpha-BGT specifically induced LTM impairment whereas acquisition as well as memory retrieval tested 1 or 3 h after learning was normal. This indicates that brain injections of alpha-BGT and MLA did not interfere with learning or medium-term memory. Rather, these blockers affect the LTM. To explain these results, we advance the hypothesis that honeybee alpha-BGT-sensitive acetylcholine receptors are also sensitive to MLA. These receptors could be essential for triggering intracellular mechanisms involved in LTM. By contrast, medium-term memory is not dependent upon these receptors but is affected by mecamylamine.

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