Analysis and evaluation of (neuro)peptides in honey bees exposed to pesticides in field conditions

Environ Pollut. 2018 Apr;235:750-760. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.12.091. Epub 2018 Feb 21.


During the last years, declines in honey bee colonies are being registered worldwide. Cholinergic pesticides and their extensive use have been correlated to the decline of pollinators and there is evidence that pesticides act as neuroendocrine disruptors affecting the metabolism of neuropeptides. However, there is a big absence of studies with quantitative results correlating the effect of pesticide exposure with changes on neuropeptides insects, and most of them are conducted under laboratory conditions, typically with individual active ingredients. In this study, we present an analytical workflow to evaluate pesticide effects on honey bees through the analysis of (neuro)peptides. The workflow consists of a rapid extraction method and liquid chromatography with triple quadrupole for preselected neuropeptides. For non-target analysis, high resolution mass spectrometry, multivariate analysis and automatic identification of discriminated peptides using a specific software and protein sequence databases. The analytical method was applied to the analysis of target and non-target (neuro)peptides in honey bees with low and high content of a wide range of pesticides to which have been exposed in field conditions. Our findings show that the identification frequency of target neuropeptides decreases significantly in honey bees with high concentration of pesticides (pesticide concentrations ≥ 500 μg kg-1) in comparison with the honey bees with low content of pesticides (pesticide concentrations ≤ 20 μg kg-1). Moreover, the principal component analysis in non-target search shows a clear distinction between peptide concentration in honey bees with high level of pesticides and honey bees with low level. The use of high resolution mass spectrometry has allowed the identification of 25 non-redundant peptides responsible for discrimination between the two groups, derived from 18 precursor proteins.

Keywords: Field conditions; High resolution mass spectrometry; Honey bees; Neuropeptides; Pesticides.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / drug effects*
  • Bees / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Honey / analysis
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Pollination


  • Neuropeptides
  • Pesticides