The Heat Shock Response in the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is Antiviral

Viruses. 2020 Feb 22;12(2):245. doi: 10.3390/v12020245.


Honey bees (Apismellifera) are an agriculturally important pollinator species that live in easily managed social groups (i.e., colonies). Unfortunately, annual losses of honey bee colonies in many parts of the world have reached unsustainable levels. Multiple abiotic and biotic stressors, including viruses, are associated with individual honey bee and colony mortality. Honey bees have evolved several antiviral defense mechanisms including conserved immune pathways (e.g., Toll, Imd, JAK/STAT) and dsRNA-triggered responses including RNA interference and a non-sequence specific dsRNA-mediated response. In addition, transcriptome analyses of virus-infected honey bees implicate an antiviral role of stress response pathways, including the heat shock response. Herein, we demonstrate that the heat shock response is antiviral in honey bees. Specifically, heat-shocked honey bees (i.e., 42 °C for 4 h) had reduced levels of the model virus, Sindbis-GFP, compared with bees maintained at a constant temperature. Virus-infection and/or heat shock resulted in differential expression of six heat shock protein encoding genes and three immune genes, many of which are positively correlated. The heat shock protein encoding and immune gene transcriptional responses observed in virus-infected bees were not completely recapitulated by administration of double stranded RNA (dsRNA), a virus-associated molecular pattern, indicating that additional virus-host interactions are involved in triggering antiviral stress response pathways.

Keywords: Apis mellifera; RNA virus; antiviral immunity; heat shock; honey bee; insect antiviral defense; insect virus; thermal stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / immunology*
  • Bees / virology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Heat-Shock Response*
  • Host Microbial Interactions*
  • Sindbis Virus / physiology
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / veterinary*