Division of labor in the honey bee (Apis mellifera): The role of tyramine β-hydroxylase

Herman K. Lehman*, David J. Schulz, Andrew B. Barron, Lydia Wraight, Chris Hardison, Sandra Whitney, Hideaki Takeuchi, Rajib K. Paul, Gene E. Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The biogenic amine octopamine (OA) is involved in the regulation of honey bee behavioral development; brain levels are higher in foragers than bees working in the hive, especially in the antennal lobes, and treatment causes precocious foraging. We measured brain mRNA and protein activity of tyramine β-hydroxylase (Tβh), an enzyme vital for OA synthesis, in order to begin testing the hypothesis that this enzyme is responsible for the rising levels of OA during honey bee behavioral development. Brain OA levels were greater in forager bees than in bees engaged in brood care, as in previous studies, but Tβh activity was not correlated with bee behavior. Tβh mRNA levels, however, did closely track OA levels during behavioral development, and Tβh mRNA was localized to previously identified octopaminergic neurons in the bee brain. Our results show that the transcription of this neurotransmitter synthetic enzyme is associated with regulation of social behavior in honey bees, but other factors may be involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2774-2784
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Apis mellifera
  • Octopamine
  • Tyramine
  • Tyramine beta-hydroxylase


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