Signatures of adaptive decreased virulence of deformed wing virus in an isolated population of wild honeybees (Apis mellifera)

Allyson M. Ray, Emma C. Gordon, Thomas D. Seeley, Jason L. Rasgon, Christina M. Grozinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive host-pathogen interactions is critical for combating epidemics and conserving species. The Varroa destructor mite and deformed wing virus (DWV) are two synergistic threats to Western honeybee (Apis mellifera) populations across the globe. Distinct honeybee populations have been found to self-sustain despite Varroa infestations, including colonies within the Arnot Forest outside Ithaca, NY, USA. We hypothesized that in these bee populations, DWV has been selected to produce an avirulent infection phenotype, allowing for the persistence of both host and disease-causing agents. To investigate this, we assessed the titre of viruses in bees from the Arnot Forest and managed apiaries, and assessed genomic variation and virulence differences between DWV isolates. Across groups, we found viral abundance was similar, but DWV genotypes were distinct. We also found that infections with isolates from the Arnot Forest resulted in higher survival and lower rates of symptomatic deformed wings, compared to analogous isolates from managed colonies, providing preliminary evidence to support the hypothesis of adaptive decreased viral virulence. Overall, this multi-level investigation of virus genotype and phenotype indicates that host ecological context can be a significant driver of viral evolution and host-pathogen interactions in honeybees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20231965
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number2009
StatePublished - Oct 25 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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