Brain mitochondrial bioenergetics change with rapid and prolonged shifts in aggression in the honey bee, Apis mellifera

Clare C. Rittschof, Hemendra J. Vekaria, Joseph H. Palmer, Patrick G. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Neuronal function demands high-level energy production, and as such, a decline in mitochondrial respiration characterizes brain injury and disease. A growing number of studies, however, link brain mitochondrial function to behavioral modulation in non-diseased contexts. In the honey bee, we show for the first time that an acute social interaction, which invokes an aggressive response, may also cause a rapid decline in brain mitochondrial bioenergetics. The degree and speed of this decline has only been previously observed in the context of brain injury. Furthermore, in the honey bee, age-related increases in aggressive tendency are associated with increased baseline brain mitochondrial respiration, as well as increased plasticity in response to metabolic fuel type in vitro. Similarly, diet restriction and ketone body feeding, which commonly enhance mammalian brain mitochondrial function in vivo, cause increased aggression. Thus, even in normal behavioral contexts, brain mitochondria show a surprising degree of variation in function over both rapid and prolonged time scales, with age predicting both baseline function and plasticity in function. These results suggest that mitochondrial function is integral to modulating aggression-related neuronal signaling. We hypothesize that variation in function reflects mitochondrial calcium buffering activity, and that shifts in mitochondrial function signal to the neuronal soma to regulate gene expression and neural energetic state. Modulating brain energetic state is emerging as a critical component of the regulation of behavior in non-diseased contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb176917
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd | Journal of Experimental Biology.


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Behavioral plasticity
  • Genomics
  • Neural energetics
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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