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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #375457

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: Co-incubation of dsRNA reduces proportion of viable spores of Ascosphaera apis, a honey bee fungal pathogen

item Tauber, James
item EINSPANIER, RALF - Free University Of Berlin
item Evans, Jay
item MCMAHON, DINO - Free University Of Berlin

Submitted to: Journal of Apicultural Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/2/2020
Publication Date: 5/12/2020
Citation: Tauber, J., Einspanier, R., Evans, J.D., Mcmahon, D. 2020. Co-incubation of dsRNA reduces proportion of viable spores of Ascosphaera apis, a honey bee fungal pathogen. Journal of Apicultural Research.

Interpretive Summary: Chalkbrood is a nuisance parasite of honey bees, slowing brood buildup in the spring and in rare cases requiring beekeepers to requeen and restart colonies. The dynamics of chalkbrood are poorly understood and its economic impacts are not known. There are few treatments for chalkbrood and standard antifungal drugs would risk having impacts on beneficial yeasts in honey bee colonies. Here we use RNA interference, a short-term treatment that targets specific parasite genes, to reduce the viability of chalkbrood. This treatment has potential to control an parasite of honey bees without environmental or beehive impacts.

Technical Abstract: There are viral, fungal, bacterial and trypanosomal pathogens that negatively impact the individual and superorganismal health of the western honey bee. One fungal pathogen, Ascosphaera apis, affects larvae and etiological agent of the disease chalkbrood. A previous genome analysis of A. apis revealed that its genome encodes for RNA interference genes, similar to other fungi and eukaryotes. Here, we examined whether A. apis-targeting double-stranded RNA species could disrupt the germination of A. apis. We observed that when spores were co-incubated with A. apis-targeting dsRNA, fewer spores were activated for germination, suggesting an uptake of exogenous genetic material at the very onset of germination and consequent damage to essential transcripts needed for germination. Overall, these results indicate that the causative agent of chalkbrood disease can be successfully targeted using an RNAi-based strategy.