Immune Response of Eastern Honeybee Worker to Nosema ceranae Infection Revealed by Transcriptomic Investigation

Insects. 2021 Aug 14;12(8):728. doi: 10.3390/insects12080728.


Here, a comparative transcriptome investigation was conducted based on high-quality deep sequencing data from the midguts of Apis cerana cerana workers at 7 d post-inoculation (dpi) and 10 dpi with Nosema ceranae and corresponding un-inoculated midguts. PCR identification and microscopic observation of paraffin sections confirmed the effective infection of A. c. cerana worker by N. ceranae. In total, 1127 and 957 N. ceranae-responsive genes were identified in the infected midguts at 7 dpi and 10 dpi, respectively. RT-qPCR results validated the reliability of our transcriptome data. GO categorization indicated the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were respectively engaged in 34 and 33 functional terms associated with biological processes, cellular components, and molecular functions. Additionally, KEGG pathway enrichment analysis showed that DEGs at 7 dpi and 10 dpi could be enriched in 231 and 226 pathways, respectively. Moreover, DEGs in workers' midguts at both 7 dpi and 10 dpi were involved in six cellular immune pathways such as autophagy and phagosome and three humoral immune pathways such as the Toll/Imd signaling pathway and Jak-STAT signaling pathway. In addition, one up-regulated gene (XM_017055397.1) was enriched in the NF-κB signaling pathway in the workers' midgut at 10 dpi. Further investigation suggested the majority of these DEGs were engaged in only one immune pathway, while a small number of DEGs were simultaneously involved in two immune pathways. These results together demonstrated that the overall gene expression profile in host midgut was altered by N. ceranae infection and some of the host immune pathways were induced to activation during fungal infection, whereas some others were suppressed via host-pathogen interaction. Our findings offer a basis for clarification of the mechanism underlying the immune response of A. c. cerana workers to N. ceranae infection, but also provide novel insights into eastern honeybee-microsporodian interaction.

Keywords: Apis cerana; Apis cerana cerana; Nosema ceranae; honeybee; immune response.