The honey bee has been extensively studied as a model for neuronal circuit and memory function and more recently has emerged as an unconventional model in biogerontology. Yet, the detailed knowledge of neuronal processing in the honey bee brain contrasts with the very sparse information available on glial cells. In other systems glial cells are involved in nutritional homeostasis, detoxification, and aging. These glial functions have been linked to metabolic enzymes, such as glutamine synthetase and glycogen phosphorylase. As a step in identifying functional roles and potential differences among honey bee glial types, we examined the spatial distribution of these enzymes and asked if enzyme abundance is associated with aging and other processes essential for survival. Using immunohistochemistry and confocal laser microscopy we demonstrate that glutamine synthetase and glycogen phosphorylase are abundant in glia but appear to co-localize with different glial sub-types. The overall spatial distribution of both enzymes was not homogenous and differed markedly between different neuropiles and also within each neuropil. Using semi-quantitative Western blotting we found that rapid aging, typically observed in shortest-lived worker bees (foragers), was associated with declining enzyme levels. Further, we found enzyme abundance changes after severe starvation stress, and that glutamine synthetase is associated with food response. Together, our data indicate that aging and nutritional physiology in bees are linked to glial specific metabolic enzymes. Enzyme specific localization patterns suggest a functional differentiation among identified glial types.
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