Myra Dickey

Myra DickeyTranscriptome analysis of the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) queen brain in response to pesticides during development

The Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the most beneficial pollinator to the U.S. agricultural economy, suppling an estimated $15 billion annually through pollination services. Honey bee health has been declining because of multiple factors, including poor queen quality, parasites and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides. As the sole egg-layer in a colony, the queen’s health is directly linked to colony-wide fitness and productivity. In recent years, the lifespan of queens has been decreasing possibly due to pesticide exposure during development. Wax used in most commercial beekeeping settings is contaminated with multiple pesticides, including miticides used to treat the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor. Currently, the effect of pesticides on the honey bee brain is unclear, but we know they have significant negative impacts on drone sperm viability, worker behavior, queen egg-laying rates, and queen mandibular gland chemical composition. Our ongoing research projects are focused on understanding how queen health is affected by exposure to agricultural pesticides during development. Because behavior is dictated by neural responses, we want to understand effects that pesticide exposure during development might have on the honey bee queen brain. For this project, we sequenced the transcriptomes of queen brains after they were reared in wax contaminated with the miticides fluvalinate, coumaphos and amitraz. Once the queens mated naturally (n = 3 per treatment), we dissected their brains into Direct-zolTM. We then extracted RNA and sent for sequencing on Illumina NextSeq. Our next step is to analyze the RNA-Seq data using edger to elucidate important pathways that will be the focus of future studies examining the effects of pesticides on honey bee health.

 

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