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Professor Alison Mercer

Alison MercerProfessor Alison Mercer studies the brain and behaviour of honey bees. Her research interests include developmental genetics, biogenic amines and neuronal development, olfaction, and learning and memory. Current research projects are looking at the characterization of dopamine receptors in the brain of the honey bee, queen retinue pheromone and the royal manipulation of worker bee brain. The behaviour and the development and modulation of the olfactory pathways in the brain of the honey bee is another area of interest.

What do bees have to do with brains? “Bees are highly social animals with a sophisticated pheromonal communication system and an extraordinarily rich behavioural repertoire, all of which we can leverage to ask interesting questions about brain function."

Find out more about Professor Alison Mercer’s research.

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Publications

Kim, S. H., Mondet, F., Hervé, M., & Mercer, A. (2018). Honey bees performing varroa sensitive hygiene remove the most mite-compromised bees from highly infested patches of brood. Apidologie, 49(3), 335-345. doi: 10.1007/s13592-017-0559-6

Iwasaki, J. M., Dickinson, K. J. M., Barratt, B. I. P., Mercer, A. R., Jowett, T. W. D., & Lord, J. M. (2018). Floral usage partitioning and competition between social (Apis mellifera, Bombus terrestris) and solitary bees in New Zealand: Niche partitioning via floral preferences? Austral Ecology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/aec.12643

Urlacher, E., Devaud, J.-M., & Mercer, A. R. (2017). C-type allatostatins mimic stress-related effects of alarm pheromone on honey bee learning and memory recall. PLoS ONE, 12(3), e0174321. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174321

Urlacher, E., Soustelle, L., Parmentier, M.-L., Verlinden, H., Gherardi, M.-J., Fourmy, D., Mercer, A. R., … Massou, I. (2016). Honey bee allatostatins target galanin/somatostatin-like receptors and modulate learning: A conserved function? PLoS ONE, 11(1), e0146248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146248

Mondet, F., Kim, S. H., de Miranda, J. R., Beslay, D., Le Conte, Y., & Mercer, A. R. (2016). Specific cues associated with honey bee social defence against Varroa destructor infested brood. Scientific Reports, 6, 25444. doi: 10.1038/srep25444

Chapter in Book - Research

Urlacher, E., Devaud, J.-M., & Mercer, A. R. (2013). Pheromones acting as social signals modulate learning in honeybees. In R. Menzel & P. R. Benjamin (Eds.), Invertebrate learning and memory. (pp. 442-449). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-415823-8.00032-0

Mustard, J. A., Vergoz, V., Mesce, K. A., Klukas, K. A., Beggs, K. T., Geddes, L. H., McQuillan, H. J., & Mercer, A. R. (2012). Dopamine signaling in the bee. In C. G. Galizia, D. Eisenhardt & Giurfa (Eds.), Honeybee neurobiology and behavior: A tribute to Randolf Menzel. (pp. 199-209). Dordrecht, TheNetherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-2099-2_16

Mercer, A. R. (2001). The predictable plasticity of honey bees. In C. Shaw & J. McEachern (Eds.), Toward a Theory of Neuroplasticity. (pp. 64-81). Philadelphia, USA: Psychology Press.

Mercer, A. R. (1999). Changing the way we perceive things: Sensory systems modulation. In P. Katz (Ed.), In 'Beyond Neurotransmission: Neuromodulation and its Importance for Information Processing'. (pp. 198-240). New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

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Journal - Research Article

Kim, S. H., Mondet, F., Hervé, M., & Mercer, A. (2018). Honey bees performing varroa sensitive hygiene remove the most mite-compromised bees from highly infested patches of brood. Apidologie, 49(3), 335-345. doi: 10.1007/s13592-017-0559-6

Iwasaki, J. M., Dickinson, K. J. M., Barratt, B. I. P., Mercer, A. R., Jowett, T. W. D., & Lord, J. M. (2018). Floral usage partitioning and competition between social (Apis mellifera, Bombus terrestris) and solitary bees in New Zealand: Niche partitioning via floral preferences? Austral Ecology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/aec.12643

Urlacher, E., Devaud, J.-M., & Mercer, A. R. (2017). C-type allatostatins mimic stress-related effects of alarm pheromone on honey bee learning and memory recall. PLoS ONE, 12(3), e0174321. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174321

Urlacher, E., Soustelle, L., Parmentier, M.-L., Verlinden, H., Gherardi, M.-J., Fourmy, D., Mercer, A. R., … Massou, I. (2016). Honey bee allatostatins target galanin/somatostatin-like receptors and modulate learning: A conserved function? PLoS ONE, 11(1), e0146248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146248

Mondet, F., Kim, S. H., de Miranda, J. R., Beslay, D., Le Conte, Y., & Mercer, A. R. (2016). Specific cues associated with honey bee social defence against Varroa destructor infested brood. Scientific Reports, 6, 25444. doi: 10.1038/srep25444

Urlacher, E., Monchanin, C., Rivière, C., Richard, F.-J., Lombardi, C., Michelsen-Heath, S., Hageman, K. J., & Mercer, A. R. (2016). Measurements of chlorpyrifos levels in forager bees and comparison with levels that disrupt honey bee odor-mediated learning under laboratory conditions. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 42(2), 127-138. doi: 10.1007/s10886-016-0672-4

Lagisz, M., Mercer, A. R., de Mouzon, C., Santos, L. L. S., & Nakagawa, S. (2016). Association of amine-receptor DNA sequence variants with associative learning in the honeybee. Behavior Genetics, 46(2), 242-251. doi: 10.1007/s10519-015-9749-z

Iwasaki, J. M., Barratt, B. I. P., Lord, J. M., Mercer, A. R., & Dickinson, K. J. M. (2015). The New Zealand experience of varroa invasion highlights research opportunities for Australia. AMBIO, 44(7), 694-704. doi: 10.1007/s13280-015-0679-z

Mondet, F., Alaux, C., Severac, D., Rohmer, M., Mercer, A. R., & Le Conte, Y. (2015). Antennae hold a key to Varroa-sensitive hygiene behaviour in honey bees. Scientific Reports, 5, 10454. doi: 10.1038/srep10454

Verlinden, H., Vleugels, R., Verdonck, R., Urlacher, E., Vanden Broeck, J., & Mercer, A. (2015). Pharmacological and signalling properties of a D2-like dopamine receptor (Dop3) in Tribolium castaneum. Insect Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 56, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.11.002

Mondet, F., de Miranda, J. R., Kretzschmar, A., Le Conte, Y., & Mercer, A. R. (2014). On the front line: Quantitative virus dynamics in honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies along a new expansion front of the parasite Varroa destructor. PLoS Pathogens, 10(8), 1004323. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004323

Urlacher, E., Tarr, I. S., & Mercer, A. R. (2014). Social modulation of stress reactivity and learning in young worker honey bees. PLoS ONE, 9(12), e113630. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113630

McQuillan, H. J., Nakagawa, S., & Mercer, A. R. (2014). Juvenile hormone enhances aversive learning performance in 2-day old worker honey bees while reducing their attraction to queen mandibular pheromone. PLoS ONE, 9(11), e112740. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112740

Geddes, L. H., McQuillan, H. J., Aiken, A., Vergoz, V., & Mercer, A. R. (2013). Steroid hormone (20-hydroxyecdysone) modulates the acquisition of aversive olfactory memories in pollen forager honeybees. Learning & Memory, 20, 399-409. doi: 10.1101/lm.030825.113

Verlinden, H., Lismont, E., Bil, M., Urlacher, E., Mercer, A., Vanden Broeck, J., & Huybrechts, R. (2013). Characterisation of a functional allatotropin receptor in the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera, Apidae). General & Comparative Endocrinology, 193, 193-200. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.08.006

Ellen, C. W., & Mercer, A. R. (2012). Modulatory actions of dopamine and serotonin on insect antennal lobe neurons: Insights from studies in vitro. Journal of Molecular Histology, 43(4), 401-404. doi: 10.1007/s10735-012-9401-7

McQuillan, H. J., Nakagawa, S., & Mercer, A. R. (2012). Mushroom bodies of the honeybee brain show cell population-specific plasticity in expression of amine-receptor genes. Learning & Memory, 19(4), 151-158. doi: 10.1101/lm.025353.111

Jarriault, D., & Mercer, A. R. (2012). Queen mandibular pheromone: Questions that remain to be resolved. Apidologie, 43(3), 292-307. doi: 10.1007/s13592-011-0117-6

McQuillan, H. J., Barron, A. B., & Mercer, A. R. (2012). Age- and behaviour-related changes in the expression of biogenic amine receptor genes in the antennae of honey bees (Apis mellifera). Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 198(10), 753-761. doi: 10.1007/s00359-012-0745-y

Mondet, F., Goodwin, M., & Mercer, A. (2011). Age-related changes in the behavioural response of honeybees to Apiguard®, a thymol-based treatment used to control the mite Varroa destructor. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 197(11), 1055-1062. doi: 10.1007/s00359-011-0666-1

Beggs, K. T., Tyndall, J. D. A., & Mercer, A. R. (2011). Honey bee dopamine and octopamine receptors linked to intracellular calcium signaling have a close phylogenetic and pharmacological relationship. PLoS ONE, 6(11), e26809. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026809

Wass, R., Harland, T., & Mercer, A. (2011). Scaffolding critical thinking in the zone of proximal development. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(3), 317-328. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2010.489237

Vergoz, V., McQuillan, H. J., Geddes, L. H., Pullar, K., Nicholson, B. J., Paulin, M. G., & Mercer, A. R. (2009). Peripheral modulation of worker bee responses to queen mandibular pheromone. PNAS, 106(49), 20930-20935. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907563106

Beggs, K. T., & Mercer, A. R. (2009). Dopamine receptor activation by honey bee queen pheromone. Current Biology, 19(14), 1206-1209. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.05.051

Mercer, A. R. (2008). A bee-line into learning and memory mechanisms. Cellular & Molecular Life Sciences, 65(22), 3521-3524.

Kloppenburg, P., & Mercer, A. R. (2008). Serotonin modulation of moth central olfactory neurons. Annual Review of Entomology, 53, 179-190. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093408

Carrington, E., Kokay, I. C., Duthie, J., Lewis, R., & Mercer, A. R. (2007). Manipulating the light/dark cycle: Effects on dopamine levels in optic lobes of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) brain. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 193(2), 167-180.

Beggs, K. T., Glendining, K. A., Marechal, N. M., Vergoz, V., Nakamura, I., Slessor, K. N., & Mercer, A. R. (2007). Queen pheromone modulates brain dopamine function in worker honey bees. PNAS, 104(7), 2460-2464.

Vergoz, V., Schreurs, H. A., & Mercer, A. R. (2007). Queen pheromone blocks aversive learning in young worker bees. Science, 317, 384-386.

The Honeybee Genome Sequencing Consortium, including Beggs, K. T., Mercer, A. R., Dearden, P. K., & Wilson, M. J. (2006). Insights into social insects from the genome of the honeybee Apis mellifera. Nature, 443, 931-949.

Perk, C. G., & Mercer, A. R. (2006). Dopamine modulation of honey bee (Apis mellifera) antennal-lobe neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 95, 1147-1157.

Beggs, K. T., Hamilton, I. S., Kurshan, P. T., Mustard, J. A., & Mercer, A. R. (2005). Characterization of a D2-like dopamine receptor (AmDOP3) in honey bee, Apis mellifera. Insect Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 35, 873-882.

Mercer, A. R., Kloppenburg, P., & Hildebrand, J. G. (2005). Plateau potentials in developing antennal-lobe neurons of the moth, Manduca sexta. Journal of Neurophysiology, 93, 1949-1958.

Mustard, J. A., Beggs, K. T., & Mercer, A. R. (2005). Molecular biology of the invertebrate dopamine receptors. Archives of Insect Biochemistry & Physiology, 59(3), 103-117.

Mustard, J. A., Kurshan, P. T., Hamilton, I. S., Blenau, W., & Mercer, A. R. (2005). Developmental expression of a tyramine receptor gene in the brain of the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 483, 66-75.

Brown, S. M., Napper, R. M., & Mercer, A. R. (2004). Foraging experience, glomerulus volume, and synapse number: A stereological study of the honey bee antennal lobe. Journal of Neurobiology, 60, 40-50.

Kurshan, P. T., Hamilton, I. S., Mustard, J. A., & Mercer, A. R. (2003). Developmental changes in expression patterns of two dopamine receptor genes in mushroom bodies of the honeybee, Apis mellifera. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 466, 91-103.

Humphries, M., Mustard, J. A., Hunter, S. J., Mercer, A. R., Ward, V. K., & Ebert, P. R. (2003). Invertebrate D2 type dopamine receptor exhibits age-based plasticity of expression in the mushroom bodies of the honeybee brain. Journal of Neurobiology, 55, 315-330.

Mustard, J. A., Blenau, W., Hamilton, I. S., Ward, V. K., Ebert, P. R., & Mercer, A. R. (2003). Analysis of two D1-like dopamine receptors from the honey bee Apis mellifera reveals agonist-independent activity. Molecular Brain Research, 113, 67-77.

Brown, S. M., Napper, R. M. A., Thompson, C. M., & Mercer, A. R. (2002). Stereological analysis reveals striking differences in the structural plasticity of two readily identifiable glomeruli in the antennal lobes of the adult worker honeybee. Journal of Neuroscience, 22, 8514-8522.

Mercer, A. R., & Hildebrand, J. G. (2002). Developmental changes in the density of ionic currents in antennal-lobe neurons of the sphinx moth, Manduca sexta. Journal of Neurophysiology, 87, 2664-2675.

Mercer, A. R., & Hildebrand, J. G. (2002). Developmental changes in the electrophysiological properties and response characteristics of Manduca antennal-lobe neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 87, 2650-2663.

McPartland, J., Di Marzo, V., De Petrocellis, L., Mercer, A. R., & Glass, M. (2001). Cannabinoid receptors absent in insects. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 436, 423-429.

Brown, S. M., Napper, R. M. A., & Mercer, A. R. (2000). Analysis of structure plasticity in the honey bee brain using the Cavalieri estimator of volume and the disector method. Image Analysis & Stereology, 19(2), 139-144. doi: 10.5566/ias.v19.p139-144

Purnell, M. T., Mitchell, C. J., Taylor, D. J., Kokay, I. C., & Mercer, A. R. (2000). The influence of endogenous dopamine levels on the density of [3H]SCH23390-binding sites in the brain of the honey bee, Apis mellifera L. Brain Research, 855, 206-216.

Brown, S. M., Napper, R. M. A., & Mercer, A. R. (2000). Structural plasticity in the antennal lobes of the worker honey bee, Apis mellifera. Image Analysis & Stereology, 19, 139-144.

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