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Insect Mol Biol. 2015 Dec;24(6):662-70. doi: 10.1111/imb.12190. Epub 2015 Sep 3.

Nosema ceranae alters a highly conserved hormonal stress pathway in honeybees.

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Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institute for Biology/General Zoology, Halle (Saale), Germany.
Institute of Biology, Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department for Materials and Environment, BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, Berlin, Germany.


Nosema ceranae, an emerging pathogen of the western honeybee (Apis mellifera), is implicated in recent pollinator losses and causes severe energetic stress. However, whether precocious foraging and accelerated behavioural maturation in infected bees are caused by the infection itself or via indirect energetic stress remains unknown. Using a combination of nutritional and infection treatments, we investigated how starvation and infection alters the regulation of adipokinetic hormone (AKH) and octopamine, two highly conserved physiological pathways that respond to energetic stress by mobilizing fat stores and increasing search activity for food. Although there was no response from AKH when bees were experimentally infected with N. ceranae or starved, supporting the notion that honeybees have lost this pathway, there were significant regulatory changes in the octopamine pathway. Significantly, we found no evidence of acute energetic stress being the only cause of symptoms associated with N. ceranae infection. Therefore, the parasite itself appears to alter regulatory components along a highly conserved physiological pathway in an infection-specific manner. This indicates that pathogen-induced behavioural alteration of chronically infected bees should not just be viewed as a coincidental short-term by-product of pathogenesis (acute energetic stress) and may be a result of a generalist manipulation strategy to obtain energy for reproduction.


Apis mellifera; adipokinetic hormone (AKH); energetic stress; hunger; octopamine; starvation

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