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Keywords:

  • extrinsic neuron;
  • insect;
  • memory;
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptors;
  • RNA interference

Abstract

We studied the involvement of the α8 subunit of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in olfactory learning and memory in Apis mellifera. We have previously shown, by injecting different nicotinic antagonists into the bee brain, that pharmacologically different subtypes of nAChRs are important for honeybee memory –α-bungarotoxin-sensitive receptors are necessary for memory consolidation and mecamylamine-sensitive receptors are involved in retrieval processes. Here, we took advantage of the honeybee genome sequencing and the development of a small interfering RNA (siRNA) tool to focus on the role of the α8 subunit, which has been shown to be expressed in brain areas important for olfactory learning, such as the antennal lobes and mushroom bodies. We first demonstrated the efficacy of the siRNA tool by showing a decrease of the α8 protein level at 6 h after brain injection of α8 siRNA. We then tested the general role of this subunit in olfactory conditioning, using brain systemic or localized siRNA injections in the antennal lobes or the calyces and vertical lobes of the mushroom bodies. These injections were performed at either 6 h before the learning acquisition or 6 h before the memory test. The most prominent result was that 6-h pre-test injection of siRNA in the mushroom body vertical lobes impaired memory retrieval at 24 and 48 h post-training. This indicated the importance of cholinergic extrinsic neurons and nAChRs containing the α8 subunit for this process.