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Acta Parasitologica

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Volume 62, Issue 4


Varroa destructor induces changes in the expression of immunity-related genes during the development of Apis mellifera worker and drone broods

Ewa A. Zaobidna
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Warmia and Mazury, Oczapowski 1A, 10-957, Olsztyn, Poland
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Krystyna Żółtowska
  • Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Warmia and Mazury, Oczapowski 1A, 10-957, Olsztyn, Poland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Elżbieta Łopieńska-Biernat
  • Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Warmia and Mazury, Oczapowski 1A, 10-957, Olsztyn, Poland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2017-10-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ap-2017-0094


The ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor has emerged as the major pest of honeybees. Despite extensive research efforts, the pathogenesis of varroosis has not been fully explained. Earlier studies suggested that V. destructor infestation leads to the suppression of the host’s immune system. The aim of this study was to analyze the immune responses of 14 genes in the Toll signal transduction pathways, including effector genes of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), in developing Apis mellifera workers and drones infested with V. destructor. Four developmental stages (L5 larvae, prepupae, and 2 pupal stages) and newly emerged imagines were analyzed. In workers, the most significant changes were observed in L5 larvae in the initial stages of infestation. A significant increase in the relative expression of 10 of the 14 analyzed genes, including defensin-1 and defensin-2, was observed in infested bees relative to non-infested individuals. The immune response in drones developed at a slower rate. The expression of genes regulating cytoplasmic signal transduction increased in prepupae, whereas the expression of defensin-1 and defensin-2 effector genes increased in P3 pupae with red eyes. The expression of many immunity-related genes was silenced in successive life stages and in imagines, and it was more profound in workers than in drones. The results indicate that V. destructor significantly influences immune responses regulated by the Toll signal transduction pathway in bees. In infested bees, the observed changes in Toll pathway genes varied between life stages and the sexes.

Keywords: Antimicrobial peptide genes; Apis mellifera development; Toll pathway genes; Varroa destructor


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About the article

Received: 2017-04-12

Revised: 2017-08-02

Accepted: 2017-08-03

Published Online: 2017-10-15

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: Acta Parasitologica, Volume 62, Issue 4, Pages 779–789, ISSN (Online) 1896-1851, ISSN (Print) 1230-2821, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ap-2017-0094.

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