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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #428848

Research Project: Genomic Approaches to Characterize and Mitigate the Impact of Nosema Disease in Honey Bees, Apis Mellifera

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21000-277-23-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Mar 31, 2015
End Date: Jan 28, 2018

Objective:
Nosema disease caused by two species of microsporidian parasites, Nosema apis and N. ceranae affects bee health and is often implicated in colony declines. The only registered treatment for Nosema disease in North America is fumagillin. With prolonged use of fumagillin, the issue of disease resistance to treatment has been a problem. As a result, additional therapeutic options are urgently needed for the treatment of Nosema disease. Identifying the mechanisms that mediate host-parasite interactions and cause observed disease phenotypes can lead to the identification of specific genes and pathways that can be targeted using genomic tools, such as RNA interference (RNAi), to mitigate the impact of the parasites. BRL will use high throughout genomic and transcriptome sequencing approaches to 1) determine virulence factors associated with Nosema pathogenecity, 2) identify host genes that are responsible for bee defenses against Nosema infection, and 3) develop RNAi based therapeutics based on information of host susceptibility and pathogen virulence and effective delivery modes for laboratory and large-scale field application. The research results will be used to improve honey bee health and crop pollination.

Approach:
BRL will carry out comparative genomic analysis to explore genome-wide genetic differences between two Nosema species and identify parasite factors responsible for pathogenicity virulence. BRL will use RNA-Seq methods to analyze transcriptome profiles indicative of host-microbe interactions under different environmental conditions to identify candidate genes involved in host defense against Nosema infection. The virulent factors and host candidate genes will be selected for follow-up analyses using RNAi driven by presentation of double-stranded RNA’s targeting specific transcripts for knockdowns. qPCR and in situ hybridization methods will be used to quantify and locate tissue-specific gene expression and to evaluate the impacts of specific RNAi constructs on bee transcripts and Nosema levels under laboratory conditions. Finally, BRL will evaluate the impacts of RNAi therapeutics on the level of Nosema infection and bee health under large-scale field conditions.