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Molecular Assessment of Genes Linked to Immune Response Traits of Honey Bees in Conventional and Organically Managed Apiaries

1
Center for Biological Control, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL 32307, USA
2
Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARS, Tallahassee, FL 32308, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Insects 2020, 11(9), 637; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090637
Received: 25 August 2020 / Revised: 12 September 2020 / Accepted: 15 September 2020 / Published: 17 September 2020
Honey bees play a critical role in agriculture as they provide pollination services to many agricultural crops. However, honey bee populations continue to decline due to exposure to pesticides, habitat destruction, pests, diseases and beekeeping practices. In this study, we assessed selected biological parameters associated with honey bee health in two beekeeping practices (organic and conventional). We compared total protein content in young worker bees from organically and conventionally managed apiaries. We also assessed differential gene expression at two levels of Varroa mite infestations (0% and 5%) in selected genes involved in nutrition and cellular defense (vitellogenin (Vg), malvolio (Mvl), prophenoloxidase (PPO)-, genes involved in lifespan (superoxide dismutase (Sod 1), superoxide dismutase 2 (Sod2)) and immune function genes (immune deficiency (Imd), spaetzle (Spz). Total soluble protein in young adult worker bees was similar in both beekeeping practices. The genes PPO, Vg and Mvl were upregulated in young adult bees with no mite infestations from organically managed apiaries and could mount an immune response through Spz and Sod 1 when challenged by 5% Varroa mite infestation levels. Overall, these findings provide useful insights into the genetic response of honey bees under two beekeeping practices and could help improve honey bee health.
Honey bees are of great economic importance, not only for honey production but also for crop pollination. However, honey bee populations continue to decline mainly due to exposure to pesticides, pathogens and beekeeping practices. In this study, total soluble protein was measured, total RNA was extracted and first-strand cDNAs were generated. Quantitative PCR was used to assess the relative expression (transcript abundances) of immune function-related genes in honey bees collected from organically and conventionally managed hives. Honey bees collected from conventionally managed hives with 0% Varroa mite infestation levels displayed an upregulated expression of the prophenoloxidase gene (cellular defense). Similarly, honey bees collected from organically managed hives had increased levels of the vitellogenin gene (immune function and longevity). The gene expression for malvolio (sucrose responsiveness) was highest in organically managed hives with 0% Varroa mite infestations. Young adult bees collected from organically managed hives with 5% Varroa mite infestation levels had upregulated expressions of the gene spaetzle, whereas bees from similarly infested, conventionally managed hives did not, suggesting that honey bees from organically managed hives could mount an immune response. In young adult bees collected from organically managed hives only, the expression of the immune deficiency gene (antimicrobial defense) was upregulated. The relative gene expression for superoxide dismutase 1 increased in young adult bees collected from hives with 5% Varroa mite infestation levels as expected. However, for superoxide dismutase 2, there was a high level of gene expression in adult bees from both conventionally managed hives with 0% Varroa mite infestation levels and organically managed hives with 5% Varroa mite infestations. The gene CYP9Q3 (pesticide detoxification) that metabolizes coumaphos and fluvalinate was upregulated in adult bees collected from organically managed bees. Overall, these findings provide useful insights into the genetic response of honey bees to some environmental stressors and could be an important component of best beekeeping practices that intend to enhance honey bee health. View Full-Text
Keywords: honey bee; genomic assessment; conventional and organic apiaries; immune response; Varroa mite honey bee; genomic assessment; conventional and organic apiaries; immune response; Varroa mite
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MDPI and ACS Style

Siebert, S.C.; Kanga, L.H.B.; Basha, S.M.; Legaspi, J.C. Molecular Assessment of Genes Linked to Immune Response Traits of Honey Bees in Conventional and Organically Managed Apiaries. Insects 2020, 11, 637. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090637

AMA Style

Siebert SC, Kanga LHB, Basha SM, Legaspi JC. Molecular Assessment of Genes Linked to Immune Response Traits of Honey Bees in Conventional and Organically Managed Apiaries. Insects. 2020; 11(9):637. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090637

Chicago/Turabian Style

Siebert, Shalom C.; Kanga, Lambert H.B.; Basha, Sheikh M.; Legaspi, Jesusa C. 2020. "Molecular Assessment of Genes Linked to Immune Response Traits of Honey Bees in Conventional and Organically Managed Apiaries" Insects 11, no. 9: 637. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090637

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