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RNA Biol. 2016;13(1):109-18. doi: 10.1080/15476286.2015.1128063.

Negligible uptake and transfer of diet-derived pollen microRNAs in adult honey bees.

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a Department of Biology , Barnard College , New York , NY , 10027 , USA.
b Vascular Medicine Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center , Pittsburgh , PA , 15261 , USA.


The putative transfer and gene regulatory activities of diet-derived miRNAs in ingesting animals are still debated. Importantly, no study to date has fully examined the role of dietary uptake of miRNA in the honey bee, a critical pollinator in both agricultural and natural ecosystems. After controlled pollen feeding experiments in adult honey bees, we observed that midguts demonstrated robust increases in plant miRNAs after pollen ingestion. However, we found no evidence of biologically relevant delivery of these molecules to proximal or distal tissues of recipient honey bees. Our results, therefore, support the premise that pollen miRNAs ingested as part of a typical diet are not robustly transferred across barrier epithelia of adult honey bees under normal conditions. Key future questions include whether other small RNA species in honey bee diets behave similarly and whether more specialized and specific delivery mechanisms exist for more efficient transport, particularly in the context of stressed barrier epithelia.


Biotechnology; cross-kingdom delivery; ecology; genetically engineered; honey bee; microRNA; pollen; pollinator

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