Transcriptional signatures of parasitization and markers of colony decline in Varroa-infested honey bees (Apis mellifera)

Virginia Zanni, David A. Galbraith, Desiderato Annoscia, Christina M. Grozinger, Francesco Nazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Extensive annual losses of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera L.) reported in the northern hemisphere represent a global problem for agriculture and biodiversity. The parasitic mite Varroa destructor, in association with deformed wing virus (DWV), plays a key role in this phenomenon, but the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. To elucidate these mechanisms, we analyzed the gene expression profile of uninfested and mite infested bees, under laboratory and field conditions, highlighting the effects of parasitization on the bee's transcriptome under a variety of conditions and scenarios. Parasitization was significantly correlated with higher viral loads. Honey bees exposed to mite infestation exhibited an altered expression of genes related to stress response, immunity, nervous system function, metabolism and behavioural maturation. Additionally, mite infested young bees showed a gene expression profile resembling that of forager bees. To identify potential molecular markers of colony decline, the expression of genes that were commonly regulated across the experiments were subsequently assessed in colonies experiencing increasing mite infestation levels. These studies suggest that PGRP-2, hymenoptaecin, a glucan recognition protein, UNC93 and a p450 cytocrome maybe suitable general biomarkers of Varroa-induced colony decline. Furthermore, the reliability of vitellogenin, a yolk protein previously identified as a good marker of colony survival, was confirmed here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
StatePublished - Aug 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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