, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 463–471 | Cite as

Different activation of immune-related genes in honey bee nurses and foragers (Apis mellifera)

  • Eva Marit Hystad ByhrøEmail author
  • Heli Salmela
  • Ana Vitlic
  • Ying Wang
  • Daniel Münch
  • Gro V. Amdam
Original article


Honey bee workers show very flexible aging patterns. Their typical behavioral progression, from nurse bees to forager bees, is associated with an onset of aging symptoms. Here, we studied how immune-activation can affect nurse and forager bees differently. Nurse and forager bees of identical chronological age were injected with vehicle control or the bacterial cell wall components lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or peptidoglycan (PGN). Next, we monitored survival and tested the expression of three immune-related genes. We confirm that forager bees die sooner than same-aged nurse bees, independent of the type of immune challenge. The relative gene expression patterns of two immune-related genes differed between the nurse and forager honey bees as well as between the treatment groups. Our findings support that nurse and forager honey bees can respond differently to immune challenge, despite a lack of detectable differences in mortality between treatments. This response was specifically associated with the workers’ behavioral caste, as the chronological age was similar among all tested animals.


honeybee aging immune activation vitellogenin defensin-2 



We thank Nick Baker for managing the colonies. We thank Claus Kreibich for valuable input. We thank Jane Ludvigsen for reading and commenting on the text.

Author contributions

EMHB, HS, GVA: designed the study, analyzed the data; EMHB, HS, AV, YW: performed research; EMHB, DM, GVA drafted the paper. All authors provided text, read, and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no potential conflict of interest in relation to the study in this paper.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© INRA, DIB and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food ScienceNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  2. 2.Department of Biosciences, Centre of Excellence in Biological InteractionsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  4. 4.MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing ResearchUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  5. 5.School of Applied SciencesUniversity of HuddersfieldHuddersfieldUK
  6. 6.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  7. 7.Faculty of Ecology and Natural Resource ManagementNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway

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