The expression of genes encoding visual components is regulated by a circadian clock, light environment and age in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)

Hiromi Sasagawa, Ryo Narita, Yasuo Kitagawa, Tatsuhiko Kadowaki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The honeybee, Apis mellifera, has been used as a model to study the development of the visual system and adult bee behaviour. However, the regulation of the levels of visual component genes has never been addressed in this organism. We isolated honeybee cDNAs encoding green-sensitive opsin and visual arrestin and then measured their mRNA levels in honeybee workers. Both mRNAs fluctuate on a daily cycle that depends on a pacemaker that functions separately from the pacemaker which controls rhythmic locomotor activity. The cycling-patterns of opsin and arrestin mRNAs are different from each other and are modified by light. Furthermore, light exposure can increase the absolute levels of both mRNAs and the arrestin mRNA level is also dependent on age. Consistent with these results, both mRNA levels are higher in foragers than in in-hive bees under natural conditions. This study thus shows that the expression of genes encoding visual components is regulated by multiple factors and is adjusted to the honeybees' need for vision during the day, and throughout their lives. Comparison of data obtained with honeybees and other organisms indicates that there is a link between the regulation of phototransduction components and vision-related animal behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-970
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Age
  • Arrestin
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Honeybee
  • Light
  • Phototransduction
  • Rhodopsin

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