Transcriptomic responses of the honey bee brain to infection with deformed wing virus

Marie C. Pizzorno, Kenneth Field, Amanda L. Kobokovich, Phillip L. Martin, Riju A. Gupta, Renata Mammone, David Rovnyak, Elizabeth A. Capaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Managed colonies of European honey bees (Apis mellifera) are under threat from Varroa destructor mite infestation and infection with viruses vectored by mites. In particular, deformed wing virus (DWV) is a common viral pathogen infecting honey bees worldwide that has been shown to induce behavioral changes including precocious foraging and reduced associative learn-ing. We investigated how DWV infection of bees affects the transcriptomic response of the brain. The transcriptomes of individual brains were analyzed using RNA-Seq after experimental infection of newly emerged adult bees with DWV. Two analytical methods were used to identify differen-tially expressed genes from the ~15,000 genes in the Apis mellifera genome. The 269 genes that had increased expression in DWV infected brains included genes involved in innate immunity such as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), Ago2, and Dicer. Single bee brain NMR metabolomics methodology was developed for this work and indicates that proline is strongly elevated in DWV infected brains, consistent with the increased presence of the AMPs abaecin and apidaecin. The 1361 genes with reduced expression levels includes genes involved in cellular communication including G-protein coupled, tyrosine kinase, and ion-channel regulated signaling pathways. The number and function of the downregulated genes suggest that DWV has a major impact on neuron signaling that could explain DWV related behavioral changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number287
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Apis mellifera
  • Behavior
  • Brain
  • Deformed wing virus
  • Disease
  • Honey bee
  • RNA virus
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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