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Vitam Horm. 2010;83:401-23. doi: 10.1016/S0083-6729(10)83017-1.

Pheromones in a superorganism: from gene to social regulation.

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INRA, UMR 406 Abeilles et Environnement, Site Agroparc, Domaine Saint-Paul, Avignon, France.


Analogous to the importance of hormones in controlling organism homoeostasis, pheromones play a major role in the regulation of group homoeostasis at the social level. In social insects, pheromones coordinate the association of "unitary" organisms into a coherent social unit or so called "superorganism." For many years, honey bees have been a convincing model for studying pheromone regulation of social life. In addition, with the recent sequencing of its genome, a global view of pheromone communication is starting to emerge, and it is now possible to decipher this complex chemical language from the molecular to the social level. We review here the different pheromones regulating the main biological functions of the superorganism and detail their respective action on the genome, physiology and behavior of nestmates. Finally, we suggest some future research that may improve our understanding of the remarkably rich syntax of pheromone communication at the social level.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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