Geographically widespread honeybee-gut symbiont subgroups show locally distinct antibiotic-resistant patterns

Jane Ludvigsen, Davide Porcellato, Trine M. L'Abée-Lund, Gro Amdam, Knut Rudi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


How long-term antibiotic treatment affects host bacterial associations is still largely unknown. The honeybee-gut microbiota has a simple composition, so we used this gut community to investigate how long-term antibiotic treatment affects host-associated microbiota. We investigated the phylogenetic relatedness, genomic content (GC percentage, genome size, number of genes and CRISPR) and antibiotic-resistant genes (ARG) for strains from two abundant members of the honeybee core gut microbiota (Gilliamella apicola and Snodgrassella alvi). Domesticated honeybees are subjected to geographically different management policies, so we used two research apiaries, representing different antibiotic treatment regimens in their apiculture: low antibiotic usage (Norway) and high antibiotic usage (Arizona, USA). We applied whole-genome shotgun sequencing on 48 G. apicola and 22 S. alvi. We identified three predominating subgroups of G. apicola in honeybees from both Norway and Arizona. For G. apicola, genetic content substantially varied between subgroups and distance similarity calculations showed similarity discrepancy between subgroups. Functional differences between subgroups, such as pectin-degrading enzymes (G. apicola), were also identified. In addition, we identified horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of transposon (Tn10)-associated tetracycline resistance (Tet B) across the G. apicola subgroups in the Arizonan honeybees, using interspace polymorphisms in the Tet B determinant. Our results support that honeybee-gut symbiont subgroups can resist long-term antibiotic treatment and maintain functionality through acquisition of geographically distinct antibiotic-resistant genes by HGT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6590-6607
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Apis mellifera
  • WGS
  • gut symbionts
  • population ecology
  • tetracycline resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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