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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Honey Bee Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #317362

Research Project: Understanding Honey Bee Microbiota to Improve Bee Nutrition and Colony Health

Location: Honey Bee Research

Title: Ecological succession in the honey bee gut: Shift in Lactobacillus strain dominance during early adult development

Author
item Anderson, Kirk
item Rodrigues, Pedro - University Of Arizona
item Mott, Brendon
item Maes, Patrick - University Of Arizona
item Corby-harris, Vanessa

Submitted to: Microbial Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/30/2015
Publication Date: 12/19/2015
Citation: Anderson, K.E., Rodrigues, P.A., Mott, B.M., Maes, P.M., Corby-Harris, V.L. 2015. Ecological succession in the honey bee gut: Shift in Lactobacillus strain dominance during early adult development. Microbial Ecology. 62:121–133. doi: 10.1007/s00248-015-0716-2

Interpretive Summary: In many vertebrates, social interactions and nutrition can affect the generational transfer and establishment of microbes that typically inhabit the adult gut. We used next generation sequencing to investigate the effect of nest materials and social environment on bacterial establishment and persistence of microbes known to inhabit the gut of honey bees. Bacterial communities of newly emerged workers at 3 and 7 days contained all bacteria types typically found in the guts of mature adults. Continuous exposure to nest materials or direct social interactions with mature adults did not affect the diversity or abundance of gut bacterial communities at the scale examined. Similarly, a common pollen supplement fed by beekeepers during pollen dearth did not alter bacterial establishment. A consideration of unique DNA sequences revealed extensive shifts in bacterial types over time. As bees aged from 3 to 7 days, relative abundance of the two dominant Lactobacilli was inversely proportional, suggesting that a pioneer strain was replaced by an ecologically distinct strain. Similar, but less pronounced patterns were evident for less abundant DNA sequences, many of which may influence community changes via early alteration of the gut environment. Our results indicate that the process of bacterial community colonization in the hindgut is resilient to changes in the nutritional, hive and social environment. More refined species definition is needed to accurately resolve questions of bacterial establishment, persistence and typical proportional variation within and between typical members of the gut bacterial community.

Technical Abstract: In many vertebrates, social interactions and nutrition can affect the colonization of gut symbionts across generations. We used next generation sequencing to investigate the effect of nest materials and social environment on the colonization and succession of core hindgut microbiota in workers of the highly social honey bee. Following natural eclosion, bacterial communities at 3 and 7 days contained phylotypes typically found in the guts of mature adults. Continuous exposure to nest materials or direct social interactions with mature adults did not affect the diversity or abundance of gut bacterial communities at the scale examined. Similarly, a common pollen supplement fed by beekeepers during pollen dearth did not alter bacterial establishment. A consideration of unique OTUs revealed extensive microbial succession. As bees aged from 3 to 7 days, relative abundance of the two dominant Lactobacilli was inversely proportional, revealing the colonization signature of a pioneer species. Similar, but less pronounced patterns were evident in less abundant OTU’s, many of which may influence community succession via early alteration of the gut environment. Our results indicate that the process of bacterial community colonization in the hindgut is resilient to changes in the nutritional, hive and social environment. Greater taxonomic resolution is needed to accurately resolve questions of ecological succession and typical proportional variation within and between core members of the gut bacterial community.