Journal of insect physiology

The role of serotonin in feeding and gut contractions in the honeybee.

PMID 24374107


Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is involved in the regulation of feeding and digestion in many animals from worms to mammals. In insects, 5-HT functions both as a neurotransmitter and as a systemic hormone. Here we tested its role as a neurotransmitter in feeding and crop contractions and its role as a systemic hormone that affected feeding in adult foraging honeybees. We found 5-HT immunoreactive processes throughout the gut, including on the surface of the oesophagus, crop, proventriculus, and the midgut, as well as in the ventral nerve cord. mRNA transcripts for all four of the known bee 5-HT receptors (Am5-ht1A,2α,2β,7) were expressed in the crop and the midgut suggesting a functional role for 5-HT in these locations. Application of a cocktail of antagonists with activity against these known receptors to the entire gut in vivo reduced the rate of spontaneous contraction in the crop and proventriculus. Although feeding with sucrose caused a small elevation of endogenous 5-HT levels in the haemolymph, injection of exogenous 5-HT directly into the abdomen of the bee to elevate 5-HT in the haemolymph did not alter food intake. However, when 5-HT was injected into directly into the brain there was a reduction in intake of carbohydrate, amino acid, or toxin-laced food solutions. Our data demonstrate that 5-HT inhibits feeding in the brain and excites muscle contractions in the gut, but general elevation of 5-HT in the bee's haemolymph does not affect food intake.