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J Invertebr Pathol. 2004 Feb;85(2):105-11.

Transcriptional immune responses by honey bee larvae during invasion by the bacterial pathogen, Paenibacillus larvae.

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USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab, Beltsville, MD 20705 USA.


Honey bee larvae are highly susceptible to the bacterial pathogen Paenibacillus larvae only during the first instar of larval development. Transcript levels were measured for genes encoding two antimicrobial peptides, abaecin and defensin, as well as for two candidates in the immune response cascade (PGRP-LD and masquerade) in control larvae and larvae exposed to the pathogen. Transcripts for all four are present throughout development. This suggests that other physiological or dietary factors may better explain the age-based change in vulnerability to this pathogen. One of these genes, abaecin, shows significant up-regulation 24 h following oral inoculation with P. larvae, precisely when the bacterium surmounts the midgut epithelia of bees. Expression of both antimicrobial peptides varied by 1000-fold across different nestmate bees, indicating an allelic component to their expression. The implications of these results for current hypotheses related to disease tolerance in social insects are discussed, along with implications for breeding bees resistant to this important disease.

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