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Insects 2019, 10(1), 16;

The Dynamics of Deformed Wing Virus Concentration and Host Defensive Gene Expression after Varroa Mite Parasitism in Honey Bees, Apis mellifera

USDA-ARS Bee research Laboratory, Bldg. 306, BARC-East, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA
Institute of Apicultural Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
USDA APHIS, National Program Manager for Honey Bee Health, Riverdale, MD 20737, USA
USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, 2000 East Allen Road, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Baton Rouge, LA 70820, USA
College of Bee Science, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou 350002, China
Laboratorio de Patología Apícola, Centro de Investigación Apícola y Agroambiental, IRIAF, Consejería de Agricultura de la Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha, 19180 Marchamalo, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Both authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: 1 August 2018 / Revised: 30 October 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 8 January 2019
PDF [2670 KB, uploaded 8 January 2019]


The synergistic interactions between the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor and Deformed wing virus (DWV) lead to the reduction in lifespan of the European honey bee Apis mellifera and often have been implicated in colony losses worldwide. However, to date, the underlying processes and mechanisms that form the multipartite interaction between the bee, mite, and virus have not been fully explained. To gain a better understanding of honey bees’ defense response to Varroa mite infestation and DWV infection, the DWV titers and transcription profiles of genes originating from RNAi, immunity, wound response, and homeostatic signaling pathways were monitored over a period of eight days. With respect to DWV, we observed low viral titers at early timepoints that coincided with high levels of Toll pathway transcription factor Dorsal, and its downstream immune effector molecules Hymenoptaecin, Apidaecin, Abaecin, and Defensin 1. However, we observed a striking increase in viral titers beginning after two days that coincided with a decrease in Dorsal levels and its corresponding immune effector molecules, and the small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) ligase repressor of Dorsal, PIAS3. We observed a similar expression pattern for genes expressing transcripts for the RNA interference (Dicer/Argonaute), wound/homeostatic (Janus Kinase), and tissue growth (Map kinase/Wnt) pathways. Our results demonstrate that on a whole, honey bees are able to mount an immediate, albeit, temporally limited, immune and homeostatic response to Varroa and DWV infections, after which downregulation of these pathways leaves the bee vulnerable to expansive viral replication. The critical insights into the defense response upon Varroa and DWV challenges generated in this study may serve as a solid base for future research on the development of effective and efficient disease management strategies in honey bees. View Full-Text
Keywords: honeybee; Varroa-DWV interaction; DWV titers; immune gene expression; anti-pathogen mechanisms honeybee; Varroa-DWV interaction; DWV titers; immune gene expression; anti-pathogen mechanisms

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Zhao, Y.; Heerman, M.; Peng, W.; Evans, J.D.; Rose, R.; DeGrandi-Hoffman, G.; Simone-Finstrom, M.; Li, J.; Li, Z.; Cook, S.C.; Su, S.; Rodríguez-García, C.; Banmeke, O.; Hamilton, M.; Chen, Y. The Dynamics of Deformed Wing Virus Concentration and Host Defensive Gene Expression after Varroa Mite Parasitism in Honey Bees, Apis mellifera. Insects 2019, 10, 16.

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