Vast differences in genomic diversity in the gut microbiota of honey bees.
Engel lab - Western and Eastern honey bees have diverged approx. 6 mya. Both bee species harbor a highly distinctive gut microbiota, which is believed to have been acquired in a common ancestor of social bees.
Western and Eastern honey bees have diverged approx. 6 mya. Both bee species harbor a highly distinctive gut microbiota, which is believed to have been acquired in a common ancestor of social bees. In collaboration with the group of Dr. Ryo Myazaki (AIST, Japan), Dr. Kirsten Ellegaard from the group Prof. Philipp Engel (DMF) applied shotgun metagenomics, i.e. the sequencing of the entire genomic content, to elucidate the evolutionary history of the gut microbiota in these two closely related host species.
Although the two host species are colonized by the same bacteria when analyzed on the level of a commonly used taxonomic marker gene (i.e. 16S rRNA gene), the results of the presented study show that the bacterial communities are highly host specific when analyzed with genomic resolution. Intriguingly, despite their similar ecology, the Western honey bee harbors many more bacterial strains and functional gene content in its microbiota than the Eastern honey bee. In particular, the authors found that the gene content for the breakdown of sugars from the pollen diet of bees is largely expanded in Western honey bees. Such differences in microbiota composition at the genomic level have not yet been described for any animal group. The findings raise questions about the eco-evolutionary processes that generate and maintain microbial diversity in the animal gut (and in microbial communities in general). Further, they suggest that the microbiota of these two important pollinator species have different functional potential and impact on the host. The study highlights the value of metagenomic studies to understand the ecology and evolution of microbial communities.
par Nassim Berberat-Farman