Microbial metabolites are considered important drivers of diet-based microbiota influence on the host, however, mechanistic models are confounded by interactions between diet, microbiota function, and host physiology. The honey bee harbors a simple microbiota that produces organic acids as fermentation products of dietary nectar and pollen, making it a model for gut microbiota research. Herein, we demonstrate that bacterial abundance in the honey bee gut is partially associated with the anterior rectum epithelium. We used dietary pollen restriction and organic acid feeding treatments to obtain information about the role of undigested pollen as a microbiota growth substrate and the impact of bacterial fermentation products on honey bee enteroendocrine signaling. Pollen restriction markedly reduced total and specific bacterial 16S rRNA abundance in the anterior rectum but not in the ileum. Anterior rectum expression levels of bacterial fermentative enzyme gene transcripts (acetate kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, and hydroxybutyryl-CoA dehydrogenase) were reduced in association with diet-induced microbiota shifts. To evaluate the effects of fermentative metabolites on host enteroendocrine function, pollen-restricted bees were fed an equimolar mixture of organic acid sodium salts (acetate, lactate, butyrate, formate, and succinate). Organic acid feeding significantly impacted hindgut enteroendocrine signaling gene expression, rescuing some effects of pollen restriction. This was specifically manifested by tissue-dependent expression patterns of neuropeptide F and allatostatin pathways, which are implicated in energy metabolism and feeding behaviors. Our findings provide new insights into the diet-microbiota-host axis in honey bees and may inform future efforts to improve bee health through diet-based microbiota manipulations.
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