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J Insect Physiol. 2012 Aug;58(8):1042-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2012.03.015. Epub 2012 Apr 9.

Gene expression in honey bee (Apis mellifera) larvae exposed to pesticides and Varroa mites (Varroa destructor).

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Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, Natural Area Drive, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Honey bee (Apis mellifera) larvae reared in vitro were exposed to one of nine pesticides and/or were challenged with the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor. Total RNA was extracted from individual larvae and first strand cDNAs were generated. Gene-expression changes in larvae were measured using quantitative PCR (qPCR) targeting transcripts for pathogens and genes involved in physiological processes, bee health, immunity, and/or xenobiotic detoxification. Transcript levels for Peptidoglycan Recognition Protein (PGRPSC), a pathogen recognition gene, increased in larvae exposed to Varroa mites (P<0.001) and were not changed in pesticide treated larvae. As expected, Varroa-parasitized brood had higher transcripts of Deformed Wing Virus than did control larvae (P<0.001). Varroa parasitism, arguably coupled with virus infection, resulted in significantly higher transcript abundances for the antimicrobial peptides abaecin, hymenoptaecin, and defensin1. Transcript levels for Prophenoloxidase-activating enzyme (PPOact), an immune end product, were elevated in larvae treated with myclobutanil and chlorothalonil (both are fungicides) (P<0.001). Transcript levels for Hexameric storage protein (Hsp70) were significantly upregulated in imidacloprid, fluvalinate, coumaphos, myclobutanil, and amitraz treated larvae. Definitive impacts of pesticides and Varroa parasitism on honey bee larval gene expression were demonstrated. Interactions between larval treatments and gene expression for the targeted genes are discussed.

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