Description of Research Group

The Amdam Lab experimentally investigates honey bee social structure to understand how communal living evolved from ancestral solitary forms of life. As we have come to a better understanding of the physiology and genetics of bees, we have expanded our research interests: the honey bee (Apis mellifera) makes an ideal model organism for understanding the regulation of social life-history, aging and epigenetics. We use the honey bee to study how extreme aging plasticity is regulated by social interactions, by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, and by food and nutrition. By combining in-lab and free-flight assays we could demonstrate that brain aging in the bee displays complex patterns of behavioral dysfunction that resemble mammalian brain aging. The egg-yolk protein Vitellogenin, found in bees, has remarkable effects on longevity and health, including immune function. To better understand the actions of Vitellogenin we study the molecular architecture, localization, binding properties, cleavage patterns and phosphorylation states of this protein. Other projects study links between lactic acid bacteria of the bees’ gut and bee health and screen for nutritional effects on lifespan and mitochondrial function. Vitellogenin seems to have a role in the immune priming in honey bees. We have shown that Vitellogenin is able to bind to bacterial fragments and transfer them from mothers to offspring leading to higher resistances in the next generation. This was done using Western blotting, confocal microscopy and in vivo experiments. Currently we are investigating how specific these priming effects are. We are also further researching the role of Vitellogenin in pathogen recognition and immunity in general. This includes in detail investigation of Vitellogenin structure and elucidating specific binding patterns to symbiotic gut bacteria, by using homology modelling, sequencing, NMR, culturing of honeybee bacterial symbionts and pathogens, and SPR. The Amdam Lab is both located in Ås Norway, at NMBU, and in Tempe Arizona US, at Arizona State University.

Technology, expertise and equipment

RNA interference mediated gene knockdown in social insect systems (Amdam, PhD Student Scofield); Bioimaging (PhD students Harwood and Quigley); Neurobiology (Quigley); Genetics (Amdam and Harwood); Microbiology (Postdoc Ludvigsen); Structural Biology (PhD student Leipart); Biochemistry (Postdoc Orlova).