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Abstract

The biogenic amines octopamine and tyramine are important neurotransmitters in insects and other protostomes. They play a pivotal role in the sensory responses, learning and memory and social organisation of honeybees. Generally, octopamine and tyramine are believed to fulfil similar roles as their deuterostome counterparts epinephrine and norepinephrine. In some cases opposing functions of both amines have been observed. In this study, we examined the functions of tyramine and octopamine in honeybee responses to light. As a first step, electroretinography was used to analyse the effect of both amines on sensory sensitivity at the photoreceptor level. Here, the maximum receptor response was increased by octopamine and decreased by tyramine. As a second step, phototaxis experiments were performed to quantify the behavioural responses to light following treatment with either amine. Octopamine increased the walking speed towards different light sources while tyramine decreased it. This was independent of locomotor activity. Our results indicate that tyramine and octopamine act as functional opposites in processing responses to light.