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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Intensity of Nosema ceranae infection is associated with specific honey bee gut bacteria and weakly associated with gut microbiome structure.

  • Author(s): Rubanov, Andrey
  • Russell, Kaleigh A
  • Rothman, Jason A
  • Nieh, James C
  • McFrederick, Quinn S
  • et al.

The honey bee, Apis mellifera, pollinates a wide variety of essential crops in numerous ecosystems around the world but faces many modern challenges. Among these, the microsporidian pathogen Nosema ceranae is one of the primary detriments to honey bee health. Nosema infects the honey bee gut, which harbors a highly specific, coevolved microbiota heavily involved in bee immune function and nutrition. Here, we extend previous work investigating interactions between the honey bee gut microbiome and N. ceranae by studying experimentally infected bees that were returned to their colonies and sampled 5, 10, and 21 days post-infection. We measured Nosema load with quantitative PCR and characterized microbiota with 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. We found significant colony level variation in infection levels, and subtle differences between the microbiota of colonies with high infection levels versus those with low infection levels. Two exact sequence variants of Gilliamella, a core gut symbiont that has previously been associated with gut dysbiosis, were significantly more abundant in bees from colonies with high Nosema loads versus those with low Nosema loads. These bacteria deserve further study to determine if they facilitate more intense infection by Nosema ceranae.

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