Transport Proteins in Honey Bees (Apis Mellifera)

Yearly, thousands of commercial honeybees (Apis Mellifera) are rented by farmers for the pollination of over 90 crops. In California alone, the almond pollination brings over 2 million of colonies every season. During the pollination season it is fairly common that commercial honeybee colonies get exposed to various xenobiotic chemicals coming from crop pesticides, in-hive medicines, and industrial pollutants. Even though regulations for chemical management in the environment aim to protect honeybee health, these only consider single chemical exposures which are not environmentally relevant. Xenobiotic chemicals do not exist alone in environmental matrices, rather multi xenobiotic exposures are much more common and relevant.

Colony loss is a common issue during pollination season. In this project we aim to elucidate if multichemical exposure of honeybees contributes to colony losses by looking at the multi-drug resistance protein, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), in honeybees. When P-gp (which is conserved across organisms) interacts with xenobiotic chemicals, these chemicals can act as substrates or inhibitors. We propose that multichemical interactions with honeybee P-gp can cause toxic bioaccumulation or neurotoxicity in honeybees that can eventually lead to colony losses.

Our current research objectives are:

    • Top Left: dissected intestinal track of a worker honeybee Top Right: sampling honeybees at UC Davis apiaries Bottom: multiple hives being placed at a California almond orchard for the yearly massive pollination event.

      Gut bacteria as a mediator in honeybee exposure: Understand the role of gut bacteria in metabolizing and managing xenobiotic chemicals ingested via water, nectar, or propolis.

    • Hive interactions for understanding exposure: Tracking of parent compounds and metabolites, to elucidating the molecular mechanism that pesticide mixtures follow in the hive and colony.
    • Real time exposure : Using a drone system to have an instant measurement of air exposure that honeybees will have in an agricultural field.