The gut microbiota affects the social network of honeybees.

  • publication
  • 23-08-2022

Liberti J, Kay T, Quinn A, Kesner L, Frank ET, Cabirol A, Richardson TO, Engel P, Keller L. Nat Ecol Evol 2022 Oct;6(10):1471-1479. EMS146375. PMC7613669. 10.1038/s41559-022-01840-w. 10.1038/s41559-022-01840-w.

The gut microbiota influences animal neurodevelopment and behaviour but has not previously been documented to affect group-level properties of social organisms. Here, we use honeybees to probe the effect of the gut microbiota on host social behaviour. We found that the microbiota increased the rate and specialization of head-to-head interactions between bees. Microbiota colonization was associated with higher abundances of one-third of the metabolites detected in the brain, including amino acids with roles in synaptic transmission and brain energetic function. Some of these metabolites were significant predictors of the number of social interactions. Microbiota colonization also affected brain transcriptional processes related to amino acid metabolism and epigenetic modifications in a brain region involved in sensory perception. These results demonstrate that the gut microbiota modulates the emergent colony social network of honeybees and suggest changes in chromatin accessibility and amino acid biosynthesis as underlying processes.

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