The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is highly valued as a commercial crop pollinator and a model animal in research. Over the past several years, governments, beekeepers, and the general public in the United States and Europe have become concerned by increased losses of honey bee colonies, calling for more research on how to keep colonies healthy while still employing them extensively in agriculture. The honey bee, like virtually all multicellular organisms, has a mutually beneficial relationship with specific microbes. The microbiota of the gut can contribute essential nutrients and vitamins and prevent colonization by non-indigenous and potentially harmful species. The gut microbiota is also of interest as a resource for paratransgenesis; a Trojan horse strategy based on genetically modified symbiotic microbes that express effector molecules antagonizing development or transmission of pathogens. Paratransgenesis was originally engineered to combat human diseases and agricultural pests that are vectored by insects. We suggest an alternative use, as a method to promote health of honey bees and to expand the molecular toolbox for research on this beneficial social insect. The honey bees' gut microbiota contains lactic acid bacteria including the genus Lactobacillus that has paratransgenic potential. We present a strategy for transforming one Lactobacillus species, L. kunkeei, for use as a vector to promote health of honey bees and functional genetic research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas