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Genomic diversity landscape of the honey bee gut microbiota.

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PubMed ID: 30683856

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Ellegaard KM, Engel P

Nat Commun. 01 2019. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-08303-0

COMMENT: The study is focused on assessing the diversity of the honey bee gut microbiota, for that they have studied the gut microbiota of 54 bees in three age groups (young, middle-aged, and old) sampled from two adjacent colonies (one of which was sampled over two consecutive years).

In this article, the authors hypothesize that even with a stable composition at the phylotype level, individual bees could differ in the functional profiling of their microbiota.

Objective:

In the current study, we used shotgun metagenomic sequencing to comprehensively analyze the genomic diversity landscape of the honey bee gut microbiota, at three taxonomic levels: phylotype, SDP (sequence-discrete populations) and strain.

Main results:

The SDPs of the honey bee gut microbiota harbor very high levels of strain diversity, with competitive exclusion occurring at the level of individual bees, but not within colonies, resulting in individualized gut microbiota profiles. 

We found age-related changes in the distribution of the variome for three out of five core phylotypes, despite the variability in strain composition among bees of the same age, indicative of functional redundancy across strains. However, pairs of bees rarely shared >70% of the variome, suggesting that the segregation of strains across bees results in functionally distinct bacterial communities at the level of individual bees.

The authors of the study concluded that this is a framework for future studies in this field, existing a link between bee health, ecology and microbiota composition. The microbiome of each individual honey bee could encode different metabolic profiles in such a way that, even the strains of the same SDP, could develop different metabolic functions.

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Carmen Martín