Nosemosis control in European honey bees, Apis mellifera, by silencing the gene encoding Nosema ceranae polar tube protein 3 [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Cristina Rodriguez-Garcia, Jay D. Evans, Wenfeng Li, Belen Branchiccela, Jiang Hong Li, Matthew C. Heerman, Olubukola Banmeke, Yazhou Zhao, Michele Hamilton, Mariano Higes, Raquel Martin-Hernandez, and Yan Ping Chen

RNA interference (RNAi) is a post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanism triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that is homologous in sequence to the silenced gene and is conserved in a wide range of eukaryotic organisms. The RNAi mechanism has provided unique opportunities for combating honey bee diseases caused by various parasites and pathogens. Nosema ceranae is a microsporidian parasite of European honey bees, Apis mellifera, and has been associated with honey bee colony losses in some regions of the world. Here we explored the possibility of silencing the expression of a N. ceranae putative virulence factor encoding polar tube protein 3 (ptp3) which is involved in host cell invasion as a therapeutic strategy for controlling Nosema parasites in honey bees. Our studies showed that the oral ingestion of a dsRNA corresponding to the sequences of N. ceranae ptp3 could effectively suppress the expression of the ptp3 gene in N. ceranae-infected bees and reduce Nosema load. In addition to the knockdown of ptp3 gene expression, ingestion of ptp3-dsRNA also led to improved innate immunity in bees infected with N. ceranae along with an improvement in physiological performance and lifespan compared with untreated control bees. These results strongly suggest that RNAi-based therapeutics hold real promise for the effective treatment of honey bee diseases in the future, and warrant further investigation.

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