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Keywords:

  • honeybee;
  • learning;
  • olfaction;
  • plasticity

Abstract

Odor learning induces structural and functional modifications throughout the olfactory system, but it is currently unknown whether this plasticity extends to the olfactory receptors (Or) in the sensory periphery. Here, we demonstrate that odor learning induces plasticity in olfactory receptor expression in the honeybee, Apis mellifera. Using quantitative RT-PCR analysis, we show that six putative floral scent receptors were differentially expressed in the bee antennae depending on the scent environment that the bees experienced. Or151, which we characterized using an in vitro cell expression system as a broadly tuned receptor binding floral odorants such as linalool, and Or11, the specific receptor for the queen pheromone 9-oxo-decenoic acid, were significantly down-regulated after honeybees were conditioned with the respective odorants in an olfactory learning paradigm. Electroantennogram recordings showed that the neural response of the antenna was similarly reduced after odor learning. Long-term odor memory was essential for inducing these changes, suggesting that the molecular mechanisms involved in olfactory memory also regulate olfactory receptor expression. Our study demonstrates for the first time that olfactory receptor expression is experience-dependent and modulated by scent conditioning, providing novel insight into how molecular regulation at the periphery contributes to plasticity in the olfactory system.