Molecular and functional characterization of an octopamine receptor from honeybee (Apis mellifera) brain


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Arnd Baumann, Institut für Biologische Informationsverarbeitung 1, Forschungszentrum Jülich, D-52425 Jülich, Germany. E-mail:


Biogenic amines and their receptors regulate and modulate many physiological and behavioural processes in animals. In vertebrates, octopamine is only found in trace amounts and its function as a true neurotransmitter is unclear. In protostomes, however, octopamine can act as neurotransmitter, neuromodulator and neurohormone. In the honeybee, octopamine acts as a neuromodulator and is involved in learning and memory formation. The identification of potential octopamine receptors is decisive for an understanding of the cellular pathways involved in mediating the effects of octopamine. Here we report the cloning and functional characterization of the first octopamine receptor from the honeybee, Apis mellifera. The gene was isolated from a brain-specific cDNA library. It encodes a protein most closely related to octopamine receptors from Drosophila melanogaster and Lymnea stagnalis. Signalling properties of the cloned receptor were studied in transiently transfected human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. Nanomolar to micromolar concentrations of octopamine induced oscillatory increases in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration. In contrast to octopamine, tyramine only elicited Ca2+ responses at micromolar concentrations. The gene is abundantly expressed in many somata of the honeybee brain, suggesting that this octopamine receptor is involved in the processing of sensory inputs, antennal motor outputs and higher-order brain functions.